AR Immersion 2010: Summary: Themed Entertainment & Museums

This panel featured a mixed group of theme park and museum attraction designers sharing their work and process in AR applications.

Robert De Lapp of De Lapp Design on Terminator Salvation

Robert De Lapp shared his concept design process for Terminator Salvation 4D. He addressed the question, “What’s a good reason for people to come back”, and how to immerse visitors “into the Terminator experience.” The concepting process began by meeting a production designer to scope out a post-nuclear backdrop and set the visual style. Immersive features included a suspended ride system equipped with augmented audio, a physical gun, and featuring a variety of AR terminator targets. To generate replay value, the concept included an extended arcade experience where players could buy a thematic “dog tag”, charge it up and practice their terminator-shooting skills to earn power-ups and weapons. These items can then be used in the main 4D attraction.

His approach is to educate the creative team on the AR technology and then come up with creative applications. Next, the tech team backs up the idea by designing a cost-effective and plausible solution. Many theme parks are wary of adoption because they believe new technologies are prototypes that involve runaway expenses. However, AR is advancing rapidly enough such that there is a growing body of reference subjects. Robert suggests that AR is best used when it can support the story of the franchise.

Richard Skaare of Perfect Prototype on Designing for Museums

Perfect Prototype aims to help clients tell stories powerfully through interactions with technology. Museums tend to have more specific needs and traits as a client category, including long buying cycles for long-term exhibits, concern with appealing to the media-savvy, and dreaming big stories while maintaining modest budgets. This usually requires some coaching on part of the design firm to scale down scope. AR in museums is an easy tool to gain attention, but needs to engage the guest as a teaching tool as well. Education is key not only for the guest’s experience of the attraction, but in communicating to the museum clients. A good practice is to provide clients with a “cheatsheet” on what AR is, and cost estimates for different scenarios.

Ernie Merlan of Merlan Creative on AR Installations

Merlan Creative offers 2D and 3D animation solutions for theme parks in addition to AR installations, drawing upon an illustration-based background from Disney Imagineering. Thus the design approaches tend to involve narrative storytelling and character animation. Projects include Disneyland’s Magic Mirror where users can try on a wardrobe of virtual dresses, and a Star Wars marker that plays epic battle animations. The firm operates as a hub of freelance creatives and engineers.

Cyril Drouet of Total Immersion on Amusement Park Strategy

AR can enhance the theme park experience by providing guest engagement, natural interaction, and the excitement of engaging with innovative technology. Data capture and online integration can serve as monetization methods and marketing tools. For example, an AR attraction for a theme park can be completely virtual, and the guest experiences the ride in a HMD. The display data can be recorded as a souvenir recording of the virtual ride, and can be purchased as a “souvenir book” and enjoyed at home. Online integration allows guests to share their virtual experiences and garner buzz. Another theatrical application involves a live performer against a blue or green screen interacting with virtual objects. Viewers watch the projected interactions with 3D glasses, immersing themselves in the mixture of real and virtual worlds.

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