Over the last year, we have seen literally dozens of theme park patents filed within the industry. Anything from augmented reality on a ride vehicle to facial recognition to floating theaters. Every time the only response seems to be the same. “I know what intellectual property that is being used for and I can’t wait to experience it!” Slow down, trigger. Patents can be intentionally deceptive. Not every theme park patent is ready to be built and some may never see the light of day. Let’s dig in!
Ignore The IP
Let’s take the above image as an example. Back in 2017, Universal Parks filed a patent for putting augmented reality glasses on a moving ride vehicle in a few different forms. While that is certainly fascinating, there seemed to be more chatter about the Hulk in the images of the patent filing that the patent itself. “Could Marvel SuperHero Islands be getting a new ride? Will they add augmented reality glasses to The Hulk at Islands of Adventure?” Nope, nope, nope.
The images used in patent filings like this are intentionally put there to throw you off the trail of the actual project Universal or Disney is working on. As an example, the rides within Marvel Superhero Island are pretty much locked in for quite some time. Sure, they can get some cosmetic upgrades (and have), but Universal would have to renegotiate with Marvel (Disney) about any major changes or expansions to the land. And based on how fierce competition has gotten, that is very very unlikely to happen. Thus, don’t pay too much attention to those characters or images in the patents themselves.
Not Ready For Prime Time
There are some theme park patents that may be a great idea but just aren’t ready to be used in a theme park anytime soon. Take, for example, this Disney patent that would be used to have drones hoist fabric or canvas in the air. The fabric would be used as an extra layer for projection shows. What if you wanted a blue sky backdrop for a projection mapping show at Disney? This would make it possible!
The problem, of course, is that these drones would have to fly up to 200 feet in the air and hold steady during all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, this fabric (even if it is light and “breathable”) becomes a wind sail that needs to be held steady for certain portions of the show. As of right now, it doesn’t seem as if the technology exists to safely do that above the heads of thousands of guests. Could it in the near future? Very possible.
Keeping It From Slugworth
You remember Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, right? Just after Charlie wins the golden ticket, a character named Slugworth appears who is willing to pay for an everlasting gobstopper; an invention of Willy Wonka that he’s trying to keep secret. When it comes to patents being filed between Disney and Universal in particular, sometimes you just hold a patent to make sure the competition doesn’t get to it first.
As a great example, Disney filed a patent a few years ago that feeds off of the facial emotions of guests in a ride vehicle. If the guest seemed bored, the ride environment could react accordingly to make it more exciting? Too scared? It could change the lighting, music and even animatronic scripts to be more funny than scary.
Keep in mind, to have the software to have all these elements react that quickly is not something that could be done. More importantly, the cost to create that many variables in an attraction will shoot the cost up astronomically. Is it possible? Eventually. Will we see it anytime soon? Or at all? Highly unlikely.
At the end of the day, owning more patents (even if they go unused) can make the value of your company go up dramatically. Even if you never want to use it, it becomes a valuable asset in that someone who wants to actually carry out a project that maybe you’ve always sat on, but never delivered, now wants it. Now they have to pay you (the patent holder) for use of that particular patent. Your thoughts?
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