For this feature we previously looked at how visitor attractions are approaching the increasingly difficult task of amazing its guests as well as looking closely at how these immersive environments are being created. In the final part Ian McMurray considers the innovative uses of technology in visitor attractions that will rapidly transfer to other sectors.
There can be little doubt that the visitor attractions industry has become highly adept at pushing AV technology to its limits. But: is there anything that the AV industry at large can learn from it, or benefit from?
For Scott Harkless, who is chief innovation officer at Alcorn McBride, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. “I think the concept of show control can bring benefits to projects that, for various reasons, try to force boardroom control systems to do things that are much better suited for show control systems,” he says. “I’m also optimistic that the themed nature of what we do can bleed into other markets. I can imagine a world where more bars, restaurants, retailers and so on embrace the idea of themed experiences to differentiate themselves in their markets.”
“As adoption of the latest AV technology becomes mainstream and costs begin to fall, innovative uses of the technology that have been pioneered by visitor attractions will rapidly transfer to other sectors,” adds Thomas Vertommen, Panasonic’s European product manager for projectors. “It’s not difficult to envisage the value some of these immersive experiences could offer students in education and workers being trained in commercial environments.”
And visitor attractions are, from one key point of view, no different from any other AV application.
“Most technologies used in visitor attractions are the same as those used throughout the AV industry,” says Matt Barton, CEO of 7thSense Design. “It’s how they are used that makes the difference. Attractions are all about storytelling, clever system design and invisible integration. In a great visitor attraction experience – as with any other AV experience – the technology becomes invisible.”
For Fabian Stumpfl, CEO of AV Stumpfl, it’s about the process. “The technology being used in visitor attractions is often the same as is used elsewhere,” he says, “but the mindset needed for creating a successful visitor attraction often necessitates asking some questions that more corporate AV applications could use as part of their planning process.”
“The challenge for many in the industry is how to integrate disparate technologies into a homogeneous solution that works seamlessly within a visitor attraction”
Ross Magri, Sarner
Continue to innovate
For its part, the visitor attractions industry needs the AV industry to continue to innovate. Ross Magri, managing director of Sarner, echoes the words of Mintel’s November 2018 report on the UK visitor attractions market – the “need to invest in new technologies [is one of the] more immediate issues for operators to consider”.
“AV technology will not only continue to play a crucial role within the visitor attraction market, but is bound to grow,” he asserts. “However, this can only be achieved if we embrace new technology, as the challenge for many in the industry is how to integrate disparate technologies into a homogeneous solution that works seamlessly within a visitor attraction.”
“Technology has come a long way from the early days of film and slide projection,” he concludes, “but the fundamentals remain the same: whilst technology will continue to play an integral and important factor in any visitor attraction, the narrative remains the driving force.”
“Visitor attractions will continue to demand the latest and greatest technologies for immersive experiences,” adds 7thSense Design’s Barton. “3D immersivity, 3D projection mapping and 3D sound in particular are trends that I think will really ramp up in that world – anything that enhances the immersive nature of the experiences.”
“And,” he smiles, “anything that gets rid of those dreaded glowing rectangles.”
The relationship between the AV industry at large and the visitor attractions industry is clearly a symbiotic one, with one providing technologies for the other to push to the limits.
“I would say the majority of the technology used in visitor attractions is the same as that used across the AV industry – with some exceptions that are specific to the visitor attractions industry,” says Magri. “Many of the components used within a visitor attraction are those used elsewhere in the AV industry. This is important, especially as the visitor attractions market is not sufficiently large to support the manufacture of products that are specific to one industry.”
As AVIXA constantly points out: the AV industry is all about delivering great experiences – from collaborative communications to digital signage, from education to control rooms. From that point of view, the visitor attractions industry is no different – except, perhaps, in how far it pushes the technology. If there truly is a conspiracy on the part of consumer electronics companies to drive visitor attractions out of business, it’s clear that they need to up their game.
Case Study: Alterface, Barco team at award-winning theme park
Walibi Belgium, voted the country’s best theme park, recently unveiled Popcorn Revenge, which was designed and built by Alterface and benefits from eight laser phosphor projectors by Barco. The projectors support an immersive journey through a Bollywood-inspired cinema complex with seven different rooms: the popcorn machine, a central hall, four themed movie theatres where visitors are presented with iconic film scenes, and a grand finale. In these rooms the journey is suddenly disturbed when the popcorns come to life; with the help of laser guns in the trackless vehicles, passengers can shoot them away. Visitors always see only six of the seven rooms in random order, so multiple trips are needed to experience all the different scenarios.