At the brand new regenerated Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff it’s not just the Doctor himself who gets to interact with cool technology; Sarner has invented a unique piece of wearable tech that each visitor is given at the start of the attraction.
Throwing the visitor into their own episode of Doctor Who was a key ambition of this new storyline. So, rather than just letting them watch the action from a distance, BBC Worldwide wanted to be able to give each visitor a wearable piece of technology that would totally draw them into the adventure and react with the story along the way.
Each guest is given a visitor pass on a lanyard at the beginning of the Experience, allowing them access to the sacred Museum of Gallifrey. As the story progresses it becomes clear that the Time Crystal embedded into the pass – based on a glowing crystal featured in the 2006 Doctor Who episode ‘Rise of the Cybermen' – has a special connection to the TARDIS, eventually helping save the Doctor in the dramatic finale.
Visitors are guided as to when to use the Time Crystal throughout the attraction and it glows and flashes, and goes through a sequence of colours, throughout the journey. It can also be made to vibrate – strongly enough to be felt by the wearer through layers of clothing. The Time Crystals are fully DMX controllable, and are triggered by bespoke infrared control units at specific times and places within the Experience – so they can be controlled differently in various locations of the attraction at the same time.
This technology is said to set a new standard for theatrical experiences across the attraction and entertainment industries. Three hundred Time Crystal pendants have been produced for the new Doctor Who Experience, and each one can each be used for 12 hours before needing to be recharged.
Ed Cookson, Sarner’s projects director, commented: “The wearable technology had to make sense as part of the story whilst adding to the visitor’s experience, but it became apparent to us that there was nothing on the market readily available so we had to invent our own.”
He continued: “There are LED reactive wristbands and other similar technology currently being used but because this whole new Experience was about creating a totally immersive new storyline, we didn’t want to shoe-horn a product that didn't make sense as part of the narrative. The pendant was designed from the ground up as a creative solution, to make sense as part of our story. In addition, we wanted to add features like vibration to create a more multi-sensory experience, rather than just a visual one and you can’t buy those off the peg!”
In a recent interview with Installation, Sarner technical director Ross Magri observed about the Doctor Who Experience: "The people who visit the attraction are as knowledgeable, or more knowledgeable than we are about the history of Doctor Who – so we have to be very accurate in terms of how it’s presented, detailed and described."