With a patent application titled simply ‘Role-Play Simulation Engine,’ Disney Parks may be looking to use its NextGen technology base and cash in on the CosPlay/LARPing — that’s Live Action Role Play — crazes and bring a brand new experience to its theme parks.
The patent allows for guests to participant in ‘long-form role play’ events in which they interact with performers that are employed by the park to engage the guest in the role-playing activities. The performers don’t even need to be humans either. They can be audio animatronics, for example, or something as simple as a video screen that triggers in response to the guest’s arrival.
All of this information — prompts to performers and responses by guests — are fed into an electronic device/system known as the planner, or game master. The planner then makes decisions on how the rest of the role playing session should play out based on how the guest responds to the game thus far.
The idea is to take what already exists, such as the World Showcase Players, to a much larger extreme, allowing the guest to freely roam the park(s) while the session continues and the guest continues to encounter multiple performers, all of whom are kept apprised of the session via the planner device. In addition to session-specific information, the planner will also make available additional information about the guest to the performer to help carry out the performance.
The guest can even make use of special props in their role-play activities which of course can employ RFID or GPS enabled devices that will allow the planner/game master/performers to track a guest’s location throughout the park and respond accordingly.
Role Play Simulation Engine is US patent application #20130066608 and was developed by Asa Kalama, Cory Rouse, Michael Ilardi and Reid Swanson.
In this day and age in which 3D scans of human faces are turned into exciting keepsakes such as the Disney/LucasFilm Star Wars Weekends experience ‘Carbon Freeze Me,’ in which guests could receive a replica of themselves frozen in carbonite a la Han Solo, and the upcoming ‘I Am A Princess,’ which builds on a previous test in which guests could have a princess doll in their likeness made, technology is becoming a key player in what has been even the most traditional of trades.
Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the pioneering technologies employed by The Walt Disney Company is being updated in a fascinating new way that will attempt to make audio animatronic figures rival the most advanced 3D, high definition screens. The ominous-sounding ‘Physical Face Cloning’ patent application (US 2012/0185218) seeks to improve upon the decades-old theme park experience by using some complicated algorithms to produce the most life-like audio animatronic figures to date.
Based on the listed location of the majority of the inventing team, the project appears to come out of Disney Research in Zurich, Switzerland. Disney Research recently came into the limelight with its technology dubbed touche, allowing users to control devices by gestures.
The problem with today’s audio animatronic figures, according to the patent, is that they require enlisting a team of animators, sculptors and other experts to create a face and skeletal system able to produce a realistic set of human expressions, as relayed through a layer of artificial skin. Taking the guess work out of the process, the new system could simply use motion capture technology to record the human subject’s face making various expressions and, via some very non-simple mathematical formulas, generate the perfect layer of silicone rubber skin (or whichever material is desired) of varying thickness, along with directions for attaching said skin to the skeleton, so that when the skin is stretched and manipulated on the figure to form the desired expressions, it provides the most realistic visuals possible.
UPDATE #1: 7/25/12 – Disney Research will discuss the new technology at SIGGRAPH 2012 on August 9. More information here.
Imagine walking into a room, running up to and hugging Donald Duck, turning to face an unmanned camera and walking out with a unique QR code stamped in your autograph book next to the ‘Donald Duck #1′ signature, referencing it later to not only access hi-res photos on your phone, but a fully edited video package of your character experience — and not a single Cast Member had a hand in the process.
With motion capture (MoCap) technology setups and video analytic software becoming more and more commonplace and more cost effective, it’s only a matter of time before their applications go beyond the norm of filmmaking and security.
A recently patent application by Disney Enterprises, titled ‘Automated Personalized Imaging System,’ by Christopher James Purvis, Joshua B. Gorin and Cliff Wong, seeks out to do just that. Recognizing that video is becoming more desirable over photography and the amount of human resources required to produce photos, let alone fully edited videos, the patent seeks out to create a completely automated solution.
Using an arrangement of cameras inside the room, the system will be able to identify and track multiple guests as they traverse through a show which includes standard character meet & greets. Such technology was on display from Walt Disney Imagineering at the Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion at last year’s Disney D23 Expo. While The Amazing Destini demonstrated the ability to recognize a single guest’s emotions via facial expressions, an alternate display showed a screen in which all of the guests in the room could be counted and tracked.
With the patent, the system would be able to immediately recognize and track any number of guests as they enter a room and could, as an example, automatically take a photo when it identifies all of the subjects are in frame and posed (i.e., not moving). Once the image is taken, the system can properly crop and edit the photo based on the guests in the photo. Additionally, a series of video clips can be edited together to document the encounter, possibly mixing in stock footage or special templates to enhance the final product, all without the intervention of a Cast Member.
Pictured here is a diagram taken from a recent patent application for a new breed of carousel from Disney Enterprises. At first glance, you’ll notice some interesting deviations from what we’ve come to known as a carousel, standard fare for any amusement park, even parks such as the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
What you may not notice at first, however — and it may not in fact be intentional in the drawing — is that the horses are backwards — at least for this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally speaking, American carousels travel in a counter-clockwise direction whereas European travel in a clockwise direction. So while you will generally see the horses face to the right at Disney theme parks (even at Disneyland Paris), these horses are facing the opposite direction.
Why that is, however, is not as important as the rest of the rest of the patent. The intent behind the new carousel design is to actually address what it sees as current problems with the existing, popular design as well as to plus the guest experience while on the attraction.
One problem that the patent defines with existing implementations has to do with the horses being configured to move up and down while the carousel is in motion. This means that when the ride cycle ends, the horse can be in any position along its y-axis, making it difficult for children and many adults to unload and load from the carousel, particularly when the horse is at its highest point. The new design addresses for this by ensuring that all of the horses are always at their lowest point between cycles, making the loading and unloading process easier.
But an even bigger change to the design is breaking the attraction up into a series of two or more concentric circles that can move independently of each other — not just in speed, but in direction as well. This means that not only can the horses effectively ‘race’ each other, but they could perhaps even spin around and travel in the opposite direction of the horses next to it, creating a ‘Dueling Dumbo’ effect.
The patent application goes on further to describe variations of attractions that can also leverage this technology. Pictured here is a different kind of attraction in which there are three rings. Vehicles are placed on the outer rings, facing each other, with the middle ring used as a transport for obstructions. By varying speeds and directions on all three rings, a classic shoot’em up type attraction receives a whole new spin.
At first glance, the type of attraction proposed in Disney’s patent application #20110312428, titled ‘Telescoping-Arm Round Ride for Amusement Parks,’ should look strongly familiar to anyone who’s ever visited a Disney theme park. Demonstrating with airplane-themed vehicles instead of elephants, this invention by Edward A. Nemeth and David W. Crawford has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.
While Dumbo allows guests to adjust the height of their vehicle as they ride in circles and attractions such as Aladdin’s Magic Carpet allows guests to adjust pitch in addition to height, the new attraction design allows guests to move in a completely different way in addition to vertically: horizontally. Using one of a couple of proposed systems, a guest would be able to control the radius of his vehicle, weaving back and forth during the ride. In addition, the patent application also calls for the potential of varying speeds during the cycle, referring to the traditional slow, constant speeds as a hindrance for those seeking a more thrilling experience. The application also maintains that the design easily allows to upgrade an existing Dumbo-type attraction by offering a more thrilling, varied experience using the exact same footprint.
Arguably a theme park will need a lot of available land, or an expansion of sorts, to implement the type of attraction demonstrated in the recently published patent application titled ‘Amusement Park Ride with Cable-Suspended Vehicles’ (patent application US 20110300957).
As demonstrated here by what appears to be some sort of cable-car themed vehicle cruising through the streets of a metropolis, the vehicle, as invented by David W. Crawford and Edward A. Nemeth, uses multiple cables to control various aspects and positions of the vehicle itself.
Specifically, the vehicle is intended to fully simulate flight while moving in a physical space. In addition to the ability of the attraction being able to physically control the pitch, roll and yaw of the vehicle, it also allows for the guest to control certain elements such as altitude.
The patent application even goes further in its exploration of what it considers the next generation of motion simulators. For example, multiple physical flightpaths could be possible while guests aboard the vehicle may have such control that they could alter the path/storyline and ‘thrill level.’
With the Avatar area slated to open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, it’s quite possible that this type of vehicle could be used in an attraction featuring mountain banshees. An excellent implementation of this may be a very plussed version of ‘Pteranodon Flyer’ found in the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studio Orlando’s Islands of Adventure where guests could tour the Avatar landscape above it all. Camouflaging the cables may require another patent altogether however.
The first DreamWorks motion picture to be marketed by Walt Disney Studios, I Am Number Four, is the basis for a new patent infringement lawsuit filed by Patent Harbor, LLC, in Texas Eastern District Court yesterday against The Walt Disney Company. Patent Harbor claims that the Blu-Ray and DVD editions of the DreamWorks film violates their patent, #5,684,514 (aka ’514) – Apparatus and Method for Assembling Content Addressable Video, with its ‘content-addressing features (e.g. illustrated
chapter/scene selection) along with the authoring equipment, and/or sale of the authored discs,
on behalf of others and/or itself.’
The complaint also makes mention of Walt Disney Studios’ distribution of Miramax films on Blu-ray and DVD discs but does not go as far as to name any other specific films other than I Am Number Four.
Patent Harbor is requesting a trial by jury with claims to both pre- and post- lawsuit penalties and royalties based on sales of the movies found to be infringing upon the patent. Similar lawsuits have also been filed against LG Electronics, Audiovox Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation, with the court urging the use of mediation in most of the cases.
If your visits to the Disney theme parks around the world leave you longing for the days of yore when your most favorite attraction ever was still around, or you feel the hankering to share those memories with your children who never were afforded the opportunity, your wishes may soon be answered, and that comes directly from Disney Parks Chair, Tom Staggs.
During the Disney Parks and Resorts presentation at Disney D23 Expo last weekend, Staggs, alongside Disneyland President George Kalogridis, announced an initiative to allow guest to interact with their favorite attractions in a whole new way. With little in way of details, Staggs asked the audience to ponder the possibilities of re-experiencing the Tahitian Terrace and ‘America the Beautiful’ in addition to new experiences such as dining with Imagineers at the Haunted Mansion and personalized tea party with princesses of the guests’ choosing.
Is Disneyland really planning on bringing back every old attraction? Could The Adventurer’s Club really be well on its way to hosting another Radiothon? The answer is a resounding yes, followed by a tiny asterisk. And if you jump down to the bottom of the text, the asterisk refers you to the word virtual.
It appears with the abundance of portable electronics and gaming consoles and a virtually infinite number of entertainment apps chosen specifically by the consumer for their own enjoyment has Walt Disney Imagineering wondering if it would be possible to allow for that same type of personalization at the theme park level, where one attraction is meant to satisfy the needs of millions.
What if, perhaps, what appears to be the Splash Mountain known and loved by millions could become an active volcano inhabited by dinosaurs with cool, refreshing lava for one, simply by donning a pair of glasses? That’s just one possibility that could be considered with US Patent #7837567, ‘Method and system for customizing a theme park experience.’
The patent, which was created by Roger Holzberg, Edward Kummer, Jeffrey Voris and Seth Mendelsohn, allows for a wide range of possibilities of allowing guests to customize their experiences at both the theme parks and at home, including the ability to ‘customize a virtual tour of the most exciting new rollercoaster rides guided by Walt Disney himself. ‘
It covers a wide range of possibilities, ranging from creating and sharing the customized experience at home and online within a community, to designing it at home and experiencing it at the park, to doing it all from within the park itself. Needless to say, if it’s possible for guests’ to customize their experiences, it will certainly be possible for Imagineering to create a pre-existing library of experiences that guests can enjoy within the park.
Another example given allows the guest to customize an existing attraction (like the Splash Mountain example loosely provided above) in the form of a FPS jungle-based warfare game:
‘…Using the specific example of a jungle warfare shooting game to illustrate the present embodiment, interactive theme park experience customizing system, permits a user to produce a custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game suitable for adaptation to a theme park ride, or virtual reality attraction.
By downloading customized theme park experience design and running interactive custom virtual theme park experience design application, a user can designate a shooting game contained as a predetermined motif as the a template from which to design a custom virtual theme park experience. Having designated a shooting game as the designated motif, the user may select customizable features, such as a jungle warfare backdrop, targets, target values, etcetera, from customizable features database. Interactive custom virtual theme park experience design application can then mediate assembly of the designated motif and selected customizable features to produce a jungle warfare shooting game customized by the user.
The custom jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user can then be transferred to custom virtual theme park experience storage and be stored there. That custom virtual theme park experience may in some embodiments be accessed and experienced, as a computer game for example, by other members of a community of users. Subsequently, the custom jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user may be adapted as a customized theme park experience. For instance, the custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user may be incorporated into a water ride at Disneyland, at which riders could use simulated guns mounted on a river craft to destroy targets displayed on video monitors positioned at various points along the course of the ride. A decision to adapt the custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game could be based on its rated popularity among a community of users accessing theme park experience design content, ease of implementation as an in-park attraction, or other criteria.’
For your added enjoyment, the patent is available for download here.
Last night, Walt Disney Imagineering did some preliminary tests with willing
victims cast members at Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom. The results had the victims cast members losing their heads laughing their heads off as the hitchhiking ghosts interacted with them in ways that have not yet been experienced in a theme park attraction.
The report from insidethemagic.com appears to jibe completely with our recent report on speculation that a patent developed by Imagineers would soon be making its way to the Haunted Mansion. The technology, which we first reported on more than a year ago allows computer generated images to dynamically be created to appear to interact with physical guests. At the time, we believed the technology would be used for a reported spectacular new meet & greet experience with Tinker Bell and the fairies of Pixie Hollow in the New Fantasyland, but as time went on and plans changed, we saw an opportunity for the tech to be used in Haunted Mansion, particularly once we learned of the new components installed in the enhanced area.
As of yet, however, the technology is in the testing phase so there is no real telling when the technology will be available to guests, but the report of the test definitely confirms our suspicions and we look forward to the day when we can see the new technology in action.
To learn more about the technology and to view the details of the patent, see our prior report here.