As this year’s IAAPA Expo winds down in Orlando, two things are clear. 2013 was an exciting year for entertainment design, and 2014 can be dubbed the year of technological possibilities. Bringing together the top vendors and innovators from the entertainment design industry revealed that technology is at the forefront of what’s next for theme parks. From big ride reveals to the tech trends we can expect to improve park operations in the year ahead, here’s a closer look at some Expo highlights.
Six Flags Goliath Ride Car Unveiled
Wooden roller coaster fans are rejoicing. In 2014, Six Flags Great America will be debuting “Goliath,” the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster. It will also be the world’s tallest wooden coaster and feature the steepest drop. That’s a triple world record breaker in one single attraction. If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering: What kind of ride vehicle is required to keep riders safe through two inversions, moving at speeds of up to 72mph on this coaster?
The ride vehicle for Goliath was unveiled at IAAPA by its designers, the Rocky Mountain Construction Group. The cars are built with safety in mind using a non-harness security system, plenty of padding for the shins, and ample room so riders stay comfortable on Goliath’s tight turns.
White Water West Brings Video Game Tech to Water Parks
Meanwhile, water park lovers will be excited by the Slideboard, White Water West‘s latest endeavor to bring video game technology to water parks. Users compete with their friends in a skill-based “shooting” style of game.
As users slide on the Slideboard, they interact with a video game-like console. The technology increases the storytelling potential associated with water park attractions. It’s also likely to bring players back time and again as they work to improve their scores. The Slideboard represents an exciting new direction for water park technology, and we’re excited to see how it performs in the field.
Technology Trends Across Parks
The Thinkwell Group study that we covered recently, A Theme Park In Your Pocket, was spot on in terms of industry developments in mobile technology. A range of companies exhibited new mobile technologies that consumers asked for in the survey. Technologies focused on both streamlining operations and making parks more fun.
RFID technology is hot, both as a way to more effectively collect guest information and to simplify park operations. Disney’s MyMagic+ program has taken the RFID concept to the next level. Meanwhile, companies like Accesso are using RFID bracelets to reduce wait times by allowing users to sign up for rides and virtually queue.
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are being used to simplify ticketing and authorize cashless payments. They’re also being used to encourage increased social interaction. Apps such as Pixe Social and Innovation’s Selfie Booth let visitors take photos and share them on their social networks.
Some solutions, such as Active Network’s LivePass, even add an augmented reality component. Destinations like Winter Park and Whistler currently use the app to drive social conversations with guests, communicate updates in real time, and create customized content such as tiles linking to Twitter or Facebook updates or webcams throughout the park. Another exciting feature is augmented realities specific to every attraction or park, which increases engagement with guests through real time descriptions of what they are experiencing. In short, we’re beginning to see mobile technologies that can guide, personalize, and vastly improve the logistics of theme park visits.
One of the biggest takeaways from this year’s IAAPA event is that technology is transforming the park experience. Whether it’s video game technology elevating a water park attraction to a new level or app technology solving the age old “long wait for a ride problem,” the year ahead promises exciting solutions for parks to better meet the needs of their guests.