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The next frontier for theme parks? Virtual reality and immersion




The show floor of the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando
The show floor of the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando
IAAPA Twitter account

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The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is in the middle of its annual Attractions Expo in Orlando. Theme park industry professionals and observers from all over the world have gathered to get a glimpse of how the parks will continue to entertain people in years to come.

"It's kind of like walking into a little time machine that's giving you a glimpse into the future of the theme park industry," said Robert Niles, founder of the website Theme Park Insider. 

After his tour of the show floor, Niles believes that the next step for places like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland is heightened levels of immersion. That will likely come through technologies that other entertainment entities like video games and movies have already leveraged like virtual reality and 3D.

"What they're doing with that is just trying to blend a whole bunch of things in unique ways that allow them to tell compelling stories in a way people want to experience," Niles said.

At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., riders of the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster wear VR goggles to play a video game while the roller coaster twists and turns.
At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., riders of the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster wear VR goggles to play a video game while the roller coaster twists and turns.
Courtesy of Six Flags

 

 

 

This sort of thing is already being seen at parks in Southern California, like the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. But this type of integration hasn't been without its problems.  

"The challenge has turned out to be capacity," Niles said. The constant calibration of the headset for each individual rider combined with the number of people lining up to experience it is a bad combination. "People love the experience. They just don't love to wait for it."

But that's just the first step of what Niles says is just the beginning. People at the IAAPA Attractions Expo know that new technology will grow their businesses. And if they have to go through a few bumps on the road to full integration, so be it.

"There are so many different options out of the house for entertainment these days. Theme parks have to come up with something unique. So just putting on that same old tram ride, look at the dancing puppets or sit down and watch a movie, that's not going to cut it anymore."

To hear more about the IAAPA Expo and the future of theme parks, click the blue player above.