XR has not only shown to be very successful on its own, but also in combination with physical environment design. Physical experiences, especially those that aim to transport visitors to a new world of sorts, can heighten people’s level of immersion by incorporating VR and AR. One such industry that relies entirely on the physical environment to entertain audiences is the Theme Park Industry. These businesses were hit extra hard by the Pandemic, because they are so reliant on the physical experience; people cannot ride roller-coasters from their home or order Mickey Mouse online to their front door. As a result, Theme Parks were forced to adapt. Those that were most successful in doing so found ways to incorporate up and coming technology into their existing systems. Now, it seems that XR is becoming more and more mainstream in the Amusement Park world.
Theme Parks initially ideated using AR in order to comply with social distancing measures. Maurizio Capuzzo is the Chief of Marketing for Electrosonic, an audio-visual consulting firm. He puts it best: “…with AR technology, we overlay digital information over physical spaces, changing the perception of what people are actually seeing” (Marketscale). With AR, it becomes so much easier to create a themed environment out of any space imaginable, regardless of how big or small, and regardless of where it is located. Beyond that, it enables visitors to feel a greater sense of wonder and autonomy when navigating a themed space. Imagine a theme park where people are able to use AR through their smartphones to find unique discoverables as they make their way around. For example, Disneyland could engage young kids that visit their parks by creating a Pokemon-Go-esque online experience, where they are able to unlock special Disney characters at different food stalls at the park. This allows customers to feel completely immersed in the world of Disney magic- they create a unique experience for themselves, which is not only memorable, but easy to share on social media (free marketing for Disney)!
Speaking of Disney, they have in fact been one of the first themed entertainment companies to dabble in the XR space. They are very well-known for their new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction, which is featured at both their California and Florida park locations. Recently, they created a nearly identical replica of the ride in VR as a game you can play from home. Game designer Michael Libby says that this is “really the first instance of anything like this that’s ever been done, where you can get a deeper dive, and a somewhat different view, of the same location by exploring its digital counterpart” (BigThink).
XR has been used in many instances as a way to augment the theme park experience. Sky Limit Entertainment of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is taking it a step further. They recently launched China’s very first entirely VR theme park (CGTN). Right now, the majority of its experiences are focused on bringing Liuzhou’s culture to life, allowing visitors to navigate it in a way that they have never been able to before. The park offers rides that include virtual parachute journeys and ski simulators. It has not existed for long, so the XR world waits in anticipation to see how the public will receive this new type of theme park experience.