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Case Studies

Bowled over: Europe gets first interactive bowling lanes

Bowling has been brought into the 21st century with the opening of the first interactive lanes in Europe.

The game of bowling has remained unchanged for decades, with bowling alleys largely offering a technology-free environment. Nordic Amusement Group, a leading supplier of simulators and entertainment equipment across Europe, and its sister company Swift Interactive saw an opportunity to refresh this format and create a product that would have a ‘revival effect’ on the game.

Eddy Fransson, founder of Nordic Amusement Group, explains: “I have a background as a bowler and our main target customers are bowling alleys. We wanted to develop something that was good for the sport that I love while at the same time grow our company. Bowling has been the same for many years so there was room for improvement to say the least.”

The company developed the idea of creating interactive bowling lanes with bright, colourful graphics, but with the low ceiling and long lanes associated with bowling alleys this proved to be a challenge, requiring powerful projectors to beam large colourful imagery down from a relatively short distance above the actual lane.

Optoma W460ST projectors were chosen to meet the brief with three projectors installed to completely cover two lanes with bright and vibrant graphics. The projectors were blended along the length of the two lanes using Nordic Amusement Group’s bespoke software creating seamless imagery.

Fransson adds: “The Optoma short throw projectors were one of few that fitted this project both price-wise and spec-wise. The hardest part was to make the solution work for different ceiling heights. Now we have created the solution in terms of the short throw projectors blended, this can then be applied to most bowling alleys with no other particular challenges.”

Picture: Nordic Amusement Group

High-speed infrared cameras detect the movement of the bowling ball and work in conjunction with infrared lights, software and projectors to then show the imagery in each individual lane as the ball is bowled. An in-house team at Nordic Amusement Group produces the interactive content. As Fransson says: “The hardest part was to figure out the colours suitable for projecting on shiny wood materials and finding the right hardware.”

Simple installation
Interactive bowling has now been installed across several bowling centres in Scandinavia. O’Learys in Skövde, Sweden recently installed the technology across all its 18 bowling lanes. This used a total of 27 W460ST projectors to cover the lanes, with equipment being recessed into the ceiling space in order to be less visually obtrusive in the bowling centre.

As Fransson explains, installation was a relatively simple process: “O’Learys prepared the centre electricity outlets and anchor platforms to our specifications as the ceiling height was a little too high, but it took just eight days to install the equipment across all 18 lanes. We have very skilled technicians so it was not that hard for them, but it is time consuming to blend and calibrate all the equipment to achieve the great interactive image.”

The installation process was simplified due to the 18 months of development time on the project, but the work is not finished there as “the development process is still ongoing and we are constantly creating more content”, he adds. “We will also be the first company in the world to release training software for bowlers to use with the solution at bowling centres. We are working with the Swedish National bowling team to create this and we will bring it to market at the Bowl Expo in Las Vegas in June. At that point, the product will be great not only for amusement but also for the sport of bowling.”

Perfect game
Interactive bowling has already proved popular, according to Kent Kyrk from O’Learys: “Interactive bowling is a new and interesting concept. It has increased our bookings for children’s parties and made us the talk of the town.”

Fransson is equally positive: “Making the lanes interactive has reinvigorated bowling. Bowling centres that have installed interactive bowling are attracting more families and children’s parties by making the game more fun. And bowling lanes tend to be a standard size all over the world – so this can be installed in any bowling centre, anywhere.”