Theme parks: Ride to the future with Twilight & DreamCraft
Theme parks are magical places where high technology and high capacity collide, and people can experience the future first-hand. This year, DreamCraft Attractions and CAVU Designwerks launched The Twilight Saga: Midnight Ride attraction at one of China’s premier theme parks. Not only is hand tracking from Ultraleap a fundamental part of an experience designed to handle 240 guests per hour – the ride’s developers couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Designed by master planner Thinkwell Group, and launching earlier this year in Henqin, China, Lionsgate Entertainment World theme park features some of Lionsgate’s most popular film franchises, including The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Twilight Saga: Midnight Ride attraction takes guests on a virtual reality motorcycle ride using the latest in VR technology, including hand tracking powered by Ultraleap.
“The philosophy of DreamCraft is to get people as embedded and immersed into the experience as possible. With individual user-controlled motion bases, you actually sit on a motorcycle and race alongside the wolf pack on this dirt bike adventure that has complete rider freedom.” – Terry Sanderson, VR Producer at DreamCraft Attractions and part of the team who created the premiere experience.
Immersive and seamless VR theme park experiences with hand tracking
Every second is valuable at theme parks that see tens of thousands of visitors daily. With over 200 players going through the system per hour, Midnight Ride needs to maintain a high throughput while also ensuring guest comfort.
This made Ultraleap’s hand tracking technology the natural choice. There’s no need to waste valuable time strapping hand-held controllers on or teaching people how to use them.
“For this type of experience, a handheld controller would make no sense. Either you have hand tracking or you just don’t have hands at all.” – Terry Sanderson
Part of the ride’s stagecraft includes a few biometric measurement techniques, so that virtual avatars can be dynamically resized to fit any rider, allowing for full upper-body representation based on just the hands and forearms. To meet the high-capacity demands of VR theme park experiences, DreamCraft designed a virtual reality headset with Ultraleap’s embedded hand tracking technology as well as a separable head mount system. This allows the headset to stay with the ride at all times, while riders wear a magnetic mount that can be sanitized after each use.
The hand tracking is often a surprise to riders, who aren’t told about the feature ahead of time. “A lot of times people organically discover that ability,” says Sanderson. “We see astonishment and amazement when they realise it’s their actual hand that they’re seeing.”
The future is in virtual reality theme parks
In the 20th century, cinemas and arcades gave people their first taste of movies and video games before home systems became widely available. DreamCraft sees theme parks and other forms of location-based entertainment (such as VR arcades) as today’s parallel for virtual reality.
Location-based entertainment is one of the ways virtual reality is making its way into people’s lives and, ultimately, homes. “VR hasn’t hit every household,” explains Sanderson, “but using it for location-based entertainment, education or training seems to be where it’s really taking off.”
In the 21st century, theme parks are literally where the future is being built.
Images courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment World and Framestore.