Roller coasters and live shows are so 20th century.
The next wave of theme park projects is all about
virtual reality (VR). Entertainment developers
believe the technology can give customers a more
immersive and intense experience than traditional
amusement parks provide. But because VR technology is unfamiliar to most theme park stakeholders, these projects can present more risks than
more traditional initiatives to upgrade parks.
VR roller coaster projects—rides that let
people feel like they’re riding a dragon or a flying stagecoach—have been launched in a handful
of countries, including Germany and Denmark.
In the U.S. state of Utah, a project team is putting the finishing touches on The Void, an 8-acre
( 3.2-hectare) entertainment center where visitors
will explore and play games in VR worlds that
range from an alien planet to an ancient temple.
Thanks to technology, including a VR headset and
computer strapped to their back, users can sense
heat from a virtual fire and feel vibrations after
being shot by virtual bullets.
In China, Landmark Entertainment is in the
planning stages of its US$200 million L.I.V.E.
(Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience) Centre
project, set to open in 2019. The entertainment
destination will combine virtual reality and augmented reality (when a digital element or information is superimposed on real-world images, such as
the line that appears to move across a swimming
pool to illustrate the world record pace in a televised race). The park, in a still-to-be-determined
location, will feature a digital art gallery, an immersive movie theater and an interactive museum
featuring attractions such as virtual dinosaurs or a
virtual trip into space.
The project team is excited about L.I.V.E.
Centre, but the road to opening day hasn’t been
entirely smooth. “When you’re a pioneer in any
field, the first projects are fraught with problems,”
says Landmark CEO Tony Christopher, Pasadena,
California, USA. Beyond configuring and testing
complicated technology, there are logistical challenges. These include figuring out how to balance