Friday, May 14, 2021

DreamCraft Attractions: Reality, but better

AR and VR are making more memorable attractions

by Sarah Brack, CAVU Designwerks

All photos courtesy of DreamCraft Attractions

AR, the game changer

Boomers, zoomers, millennials, and everyone else are on the cusp of joining Generation AR (augmented reality): using powerful technology and real-time systems to add layers of information over the real world. So what is AR, and how will it change our lives?

In 2016, the world discovered the first mass-market augmented reality app. People — young and old —were hunting in neighborhoods, parks, and city sidewalks, staring intensely at their phones to catch elusive creatures by swiping virtual balls at them. These creatures exist only in the phones, but for anyone looking at their screen, they seemed to be right there in the real world. Pokémon GO was a smash hit that made AR mainstream.

Like many technologies, AR has evolved a great deal since its roots in the military decades ago. It has evolved from rudimentary heads-up displays for flight crews to a robust entertainment experience connecting millions of people around the world.

Augmented Reality 101

There are two approaches to augmented reality: passthrough and reflection. AR headsets, like the Microsoft HoloLens or the Nreal AR glasses, use reflection to generate an AR experience. Images are projected onto a surface (glass or a similar material) in front of the user’s eyes. The DreamCraft Attractions team has substantial experience with this format, having been part of the development team for HoloLens, and more recently, in a soon-to- be-seen, technologically impressive theme park attraction.

Passthrough AR applies virtual images to a video feed; Pokémon GO is one adaptation of this technology. Using their smartphone cameras, users can view their environment with an AR overlay to display interactive characters. Some Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, such as models from Varjo Technologies, use this technology. It’s a powerful way to immerse the viewer through a blend of virtual, augmented, and real-life elements.

Technical aspects of VR and AR will continue to improve, deepening the engagement in an AR experience. Currently, tethered headsets offer power and connection to a high-end processing solution, but limit guest’ freedom of movement. Advancements in wireless technology will overcome this issue. The resolution of the graphics in standalone headsets will improve as 5G/edge computing becomes a standard equipment integration, and longer-lived battery packs will allow for a seamless experience.

Beyond Immersion

When combined with advanced technologies, such as real-time projection mapping, AR and VR can become fully interactive experiences. Within the augmented world, guests can battle aliens, interact with cartoons, and see details in events that otherwise would be impossible to see or overlooked altogether. In the hands of a producer familiar with the media, a guest experience can move between projection mapping and AR with ease, taking full advantage of the strengths of both technologies.

In addition, real-time projection mapping can bring the added benefit of social distancing to the guest experience. Guests can be shown where to stand in the line, while cameras track the group and projected content keeps everyone effectively and safely distant, all in real-time. This setup can substantially enhance the ride experience through the creative use of projection-mapped animations and integrations.

Tomorrow’s Technology, Today

The future of AR will have a substantial impact on our lives. Innovative organizations, like Apple, Nvidia and Qualcomm, are putting considerable efforts behind AR, seeing it as the future of human computing interfaces. The hardware is improving every day, and teams, such as DreamCraft Attractions, with substantial and successful experience and expertise with AR are pushing it to its limits. And beyond. While games like Pokémon GO have introduced AR to the masses, tomorrow’s AR experiences will help us interact with the world in truly amazing ways.

About DreamCraft Attractions

With a strong focus on innovation, DreamCraft Attractions combines hardware systems, proprietary software, and storyline adaptations to tell stories through interactive experiences driven by advanced real-time technology. Visit www. dreamcraftattractions.com • • •

VR in action: Midnight Ride at Lionsgate World is a model for immersive, state-of-the-art, me- dia-based experiences in the age of COVID

Midnight Ride at Lionsgate Entertainment World in Zhuhai, China

DreamCraft’s most recent VR experience, a Twilight-themed adventure called Midnight Ride, available at Lionsgate Entertainment World in Zhuhai, China, lets guests climb on motorcycles attached to individual motion bases. The guests feel like they are actually riding with the movie’s wolf pack, with force feedback and the motion base providing the sensation of riding across different terrains, such as the beach, a rickety old bridge, and through the woods. The sense of immersion goes deeper due to the inclusion of hand-tracking, allowing groups of four to wave at or signal each other while engaging with the ride environment.

The ride vehicles for the Twilight experience are laid out in a pattern that demonstrates what the setup for attractions in a post-COVID-19 world might look like. Each guest rides the motion-based platform, situated over two meters apart. In this arrangement, guests can fill from back to front, then exit on the other side of the room in the same order, or reverse order if the exit is on the same wall as the entry. This keeps guests compliant with social distancing, and with a hygienic headset solution, such as DreamCraft’s DreamSet, helps alleviate concerns about sanitation. •

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