Disney patents AR without headsets for theme park rides

[Disney’s new “Virtual World Simulator” patent describes a sophisticated projection mapping system that can track multiple users and project personalized three-dimensional images to create augmented reality illusions without the need for a headset, phone or other user device. This story from SiliconValley.com provides details and context (and the original version includes two different images). IGN’s coverage adds this:

“In addition to creating immersive theme park experiences, Disney’s patent also appears to note that the technology could be adapted for home use. The patent states that the virtual world simulator could be used to enable the transformation of a real-world venue, in the form of a personal residence or photography studio, into a movie set without requiring the user to leave their home. While this still feels like it could be some way off, the notion that the company is working on such technologies is still a very exciting prospect.”

And Spectrum News adds this:

“Usually, it takes someone nearly two years to patent something at the U.S. Patent Office. Disney expedited this filing and received it in six months. They want to be leaders in this space and technology. ‘It likely means it’s a near-term rollout for them or it’s a licensing play,’ said [patent attorney Yuri] Eliezer. ‘Disney’s goal in getting this patent … Disney believes others are going to get into this space. They want to make sure they get this patent first.’”

The patent is available on the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office. –Matthew]

Disney patents AR without headsets for theme park rides

Disney was granted a patent for a Virtual World Simulator that enables multiple users to experience a 3D virtual world from multiple vantage points without any glasses, goggles or digital devices.

By Brady Macdonald
January 4, 2022

Disney has taken one step closer to creating a virtual metaverse at Disneyland that would allow the entertainment giant to simulate a digital world with animated characters in a real-world theme park attraction.

The Walt Disney Company was granted a patent on Dec. 28 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a Virtual World Simulator that enables multiple users to experience a 3D virtual world from multiple vantage points without any glasses, goggles or digital devices.

Disney’s patent takes digital simulation one step beyond virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) with the newly dubbed virtual world (VW).

Disney’s Virtual World Simulator creates a realistic and highly-immersive 3D virtual experience without requiring the user to wear an AR headset or use an AR-enabled smartphone, according to the patent.

Disney’s patented Virtual World Simulator would create 3D imagery using multiple projectors capable of generating a high rate of images per second.

The Virtual World Simulator would use a SLAM technique — which stands for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping — to continuously track the ever-changing point of view of a visitor moving through a real-world venue like a theme park attraction.

The 3D virtual effects projected by Disney’s Virtual World Simulator in real-world venues could include animated characters along with simulated objects, props and artwork, according to the patent.

Disney wants to introduce virtual world simulations into real-world venues like Disneyland and Walt Disney World, according to Founders Legal patent and technology technical adviser John DeStefano.

“Rather than look through a phone screen or a headset, Disney developed a system almost similar to a movie projector to project on a real surface what humans see on a screen,” DeStefano told Spectrum News. “It’s more real-world experience rather than looking at it through a phone.”

Disneyland has already dabbled with video projection mapping technology during the “Mickey’s Mix Magic” fireworks show with the imagery seen on the Main Street U.S.A. facades and simulated holographic imagery with the Rey hologram displayed during the mission briefing in the first pre-show room of the Rise of the Resistance attraction.

Universal Studios Japan introduced the Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge augmented reality racing car ride when the world’s first Super Nintendo World themed land opened in March 2021.

Mario Kart riders steer through familiar race courses and Mushroom Kingdom worlds while slinging Koopa shells at their opponents or objects along the route. AR headsets with visor screens designed to look like Mario’s distinctive cap allow riders to see the video game-style action playing out against physical sets and projection screens.

The Mario Kart AR ride is expected to be the marquee attraction of the new Super Nintendo World coming to Universal Studios Hollywood. An opening date has not been announced for the new Nintendo land at the Hollywood theme park.

The new Secret Life of Pets dark ride at Universal Studios Hollywood allows riders to see themselves as pets on video screens sprinkled throughout the attraction. The pets on the next generation augmented reality video screens mimic the hand gestures and facial expressions of riders.

Disney has long been a proponent of augmented reality over virtual reality — which shuts out the physical world and immerses the user in a video game-like virtual world.

Disney parks largely avoided the first wave of VR gimmickry that invaded amusement parks when Six Flags and Cedar Fair introduced VR headsets on aging roller coasters in an attempt to freshen rides.

Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios use AR training to teach Rise of the Resistance ride operators how to load and unload First Order Fleet Transport vehicles and operate the attraction dispatch board.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida has tested a new Windows on the Wild AR experience with its animal safari expedition. The pilot program combined advanced radar technology with camera monitors hidden in the jungle foliage and aerial drone footage to give visitors an up-close look at the safari animals.

Disney’s research and development arm developed augmented reality technology that could let visitors don AR costumes of their favorite superheroes and princesses in the parks for souvenir snapshots.

Disney appears to be fast-tracking the development of the Virtual World Simulator technology for a near-term rollout, according to Founders Legal patent attorney Yuri Eliezer.

“Disney believes others are going to get into this space,” Eliezer told Spectrum News. “They want to make sure they get this patent first.”

Disney laid out a vision for a theme park metaverse filled with converged experiences in a webcast presentation during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo virtual education conference in November 2020.

Disney’s theme park metaverse would connect digital, data and physical elements into a “virtually-enhanced physical reality and physically-persistent virtual space,” according to the presentation.

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