Universal Studios Patents Tech for Voice-Enabled Interactive Theme Park Rides
Universal Studios has filed a patent for technology that would make theme park rides interactive through voice commands. The patent describes an interactive version of the 160-year-old Pepper’s Ghost effect that makes images appear as holograms within panes of glass, giving visitors a chance to affect their experience based on how a handheld device that conveys voice commands and gestures to the virtual character.
Pepper’s Ghost illusions use lighting and mirrors to create the illusion of an image without a reflection. The ghost effect was first demonstrated publicly in 1862 by John Henry Pepper in London. The Interactive Pepper’s Ghost Effect System described by the new patent would connect that illusion to a hand-held device and controller that would receive and send data through microphones and orientation sensors, causing the illusionary character to respond as programmed. The synthetic media could be as simple as running a video based on certain keywords to entirely personalized responses with visuals and voices generated based on details like names or favorite colors the visitor shares through the device. It’s easy to imagine a voice-enabled wand in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter to engage with interactive holograms or starting conversations with Mario at the Super Nintendo World that opens at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023.
Universal’s plans are suggestive of how it will compete with theme park rivals, the biggest of course being Disney. The Mickey Mouse company has been developing a virtual assistant as a guide and planning service for visitors to its theme parks this fall within the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps. The AI named Genie will answer questions about the parks and build ideal itineraries for users based on what they say they are interested in and the logistics of the moment, updating in real-time depending on wait times and other factors. And the upcoming Hey, Disney! Alexa Custom Assistant is set to offer interactions with a host of Disney-owned characters, as well as a new voice AI guide for users at Disney theme park hotels and at home. But, Universal’s plans may outstrip both of those if it brings the interactivity of a voice assistant to life in the rides at its parks.