Walt Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, has said no to bringing virtual reality headsets into Disney theme parks but hasn’t ruled out augmented reality experiences.
Despite rival parks including Six Flags and Sea World introducing VR experiences, according to a report in the LA Times (opens in new tab), Iger told his team not to even think about it as donning headsets that completely block out the real world for a virtual one is something he considers “ersatz.”
As the world’s most-visited theme park company, Disney is in a fairly good position to do something different from its competitors and take a risk on a less established technology.
Though AR will still likely involve a headset of some kind, at the very least it still allows park visitors to engage with the park around them. Iger said he hopes the technology will get lighter over time.
Rather than locking visitors in one place for one experience, it could be used to enhance the park as a whole and allow them to wander freely and actually interact.
Imagine, for example, wearing augmented reality glasses and being able to engage in a Tinkerbell hunt around the park – a kind of ride outside of the main rides.
Many of us visit theme parks to be drawn out of our reality without the need for a headset. When you don a VR headset at a theme park, you could arguably just do the same thing in your living room.
As Iger said to an audience at a USC Marshall and Annenberg event in Santa Monica, the point of Disney parks is to “create [...] an experience that is real. When you walk into Cars Land, you feel you’re in Radiator Springs because of what we’ve built — not only the attention to the detail, but the scale.”
According to the LA Times, Iger said he spends every Tuesday afternoon at a Disney engineering lab wearing a head-mounted device that allows him to have a lightsaber duel with Stormtrooper.
That all sounds extremely promising, but AR does have much further to go than VR when it comes to creating an immersive and seamless experience. Magic Leap's device is a good example of the small steps the technology is taking. It could, therefore, be a while before we get to try this Star Wars experience for ourselves.