AttractionsThe magic of Disneyland may soon be further augmented by the convergence of its physical and digital worlds.

A whole new world: The metaverse awaits Disney fans

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Disney filed for a patent to create technology that can project 3D images in its parks.
Disney filed for a patent to create technology that can project 3D images in its parks. Photo Credit: Disney

A whole new world awaits Disney fans, as the entertainment conglomerate looks to bring its theme parks into the future by blending in-person entertainment with virtual experiences.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse combines multiple elements of technology using virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users can interact and experience things as they would in the real world.

It holds the potential for users to work, play and connect with friends or even strangers in any setting from virtual trips around the world to conferences.

Think modern video games that evoke a literal virtual realm where players can interact with each other in real-time as they navigate around the digital world, e.g. Minecraft, Fortnite or World of Warcraft.

Disney secured a patent in December 2021 for a “virtual world simulator” that can project 3D images and virtual effects onto physical paces, with these special effects personalised for each unique park visitor.

This virtual world simulator is one big step in Disney’s ambitious plans of joining the likes of Facebook and Microsoft in the metaverse to create more interactive experiences for park visitors.

According to an internal memo issued to employees on 15 February, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that senior vice president Mike White will be in charge of spearheading the company’s metaverse strategy for the “next generation storytelling” by connecting “the physical and digital worlds” for Disney entertainment.

“Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories,” Chapek wrote in the memo. ““This is the so-called metaverse – which I believe is the next great storytelling frontier and the perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of storytelling excellence, innovation, and audience focus.”

Into the unknown: What will the happiest place in the metaverse hold?

Tilak Mandadi, former head of digital and technology for Disney parks, experiences and products, described Disney’s concept of its metaverse to be a space “where physical and digital worlds converge, with wearables, smartphones and digital access points immersing the guests in the metaverse experiences”.

This means that while virtual reality would typically involve the usage of VR goggles, Disney intends to take those bulky, motion-sickness-inducing headsets out of the equation with the use of multiple technological devices Mandadi mentioned, along with the implementation of a new technology which was the subject of the patent recently filed.

The new technology may involve a new device, possibly something that park-goers would wear, that projects 3D images and virtual effects onto physical spaces, similar to how holograms work in Star Wars.

Star Wars-style projected 3D holograms could soon be a reality in Disney parks.
Star Wars-style projected 3D holograms could soon be a reality in Disney parks. Photo Credit: Star Wars/Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios

However, instead of seeing the same 3D projections, each park visitor may be able to personalise the projections according to their preferences or data derived from other Disney wearable technology. For example, a visitor who is a Frozen fan may be able to see a virtual projection of Queen Elsa welcoming them into one of Disney’s restaurants, whereas a Star Wars aficionado may be greeted by Darth Vadar.

Since Walt Disney first opened his first theme park in 1955, the Disney company has always been at the forefront of innovation in the entertainment and attractions industry.

The entertainment conglomerate consistently strives to bring transformative experiences in its storytelling with the use of architectural design, digital media, animation, animatronics, and 3D modelling. And the convergence of its real and digital worlds, if successfully executed sometime in the future, may be another record for Disney in the history books.

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