TEA Connect Blog

25 May 2022

Connecting the Metaverse with Themed Entertainment

By Justin Stucey


On Wednesday, May 18, 2022 the Themed Entertainment Association's Western North America division hosted a virtual event for TEA Digital, Connecting the Metaverse with Themed Entertainment. The event featured a brief introduction to the Metaverse and discussion around the similarities between physical and virtual experiences. 

 

 

 

Darren Brown, Vice President of Production at Dynamic Attractions, and Western Division board member moderated a panel of experts who helped level up our understanding of this new entertainment business frontier. 

Over the past two years, trendy NFTs, live celebrity concerts and a virtual land rush have driven public awareness and hope for the future of financial gain within this emerging digital domain.  

The realm of engagement for makers and consumers is limited only by the imagination of the user. Hardware tools that support extended reality experiences - devices that create or display spatial layers in augmented and virtual reality, immerse people by providing agency within an alternate reality. People are empowered to create a twin as an avatar or digital human to reflect personalized characteristics and physical traits. 

 

Younger audiences are engaging with Roblox, a remote collaboration platform that brings people together through play. Michael Libby, Technological Utopianist and Founder and CEO of Worldbuildr (also a Western Division board member) explained this 3D environment provides ways for consumers to intuitively know what to do in the virtual realm. Although this digital multiplayer experience does not have many developer options, it provides an easy way to create worlds with other users. 

The experience within the Metaverse is bespoke to everyone. 

Kathleen Cohen, XR Immersive Strategist, Tech Humanist and Founder at The Collaboratorium shared that there are many avenues to explore as a Metaverse for your business. A task force can be set up to review consumer research and explore areas to develop and understand how much to invest. This team can also help to evangelize about the experience payoff. Defining consumer value and stimulating emotional connection are key components to successful immersive experiences.

The panel (as animated avatars) also discussed challenges with the current themed entertainment business model that is slow to accommodate popular IP demands. 

 

 

 

Amy Jupiter, Experience Designer and Visual FX Supervisor at Virgin Galactic spoke about the advantages of the Metaverse as a business solution. Popular characters can be brought back to market faster through an iterative design process that leverages consumer feedback. This would enable project leadership another option to provide public engagement that is not limited by hourly throughput and costly time-laden physical construction plans.  

So where do themed entertainment experience designers begin? With story, of course! 

Amy went on to remind us that theme - a written description around a subject, gives intention for the assets we build. Literary concepts become physical expressions that connect the guest to the experience. This emotional manipulation creates an architecture of reassurance for the experiencer to rely on sensory stimulation, among other people, to transform the environment. Immersion in the Metaverse is shaped by volumetric storytellers who inform how we should feel and intuitively navigate worlds so no one is lost. 

Micheal noted that before our industry begins to create a Metaverse we must first unlearn things that are impossible. Experiences which cannot be achieved in a theme park, such as flying, become abilities and opportunities for new narrative-based experiences. 

Additionally, the view of a virtual world is more like a 3D camera that can be placed anywhere. The assumption that someone can only experience the world in 1st person is false.  

Kathleen highlighted that we are in the era of building tools, and the Metaverse is more than just gameplay - It’s about our humanity and creating a place to be among people and explore new worlds. 

The current iteration of the Metaverse may feel impersonal, lacking a safety bubble, and exist in low fidelity, however, it is hopeful that one day this synthetic environment will become interpersonal and fully immersive. Common ground language, interoperability standards and protocol discussions to resolve cross platform identity recognition are actively underway. 

Metaverse applications currently being explored in themed entertainment include pre-visualized show simulation and sequencing. Spatial computing resources such as Worldbuildr create a digital twin of physical environments to push innovation through rapid prototyping iterative design processes. Advantages of such programs include creative solutions for people with disabilities and examination of operational health of the show. 

The themed entertainment industry and Metaverse reflect a human desire to connect, create and experience life. LBE experience designers are uniquely equipped to shape the future of the Metaverse because designing a place for people to inhabit and be entertained is at the core of what we do. 

The future of this new realm of guest experience is limited only by our imagination.

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Special thanks to TEA Western Division Communications Committee Members, Kanthi Ananthagopal, EventBrite graphic; Lisa Jey Schanley pre-event social media graphic. 

Sabrina Hibben pre and post-event social content writer and post event social graphics; and  Justin Stucey, article writer. 

Posted by Morgan Lucchese

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