Written by Chad Kunimoto, Global Business Development Manager for Themed Entertainment & Immersive Experience at Panasonic Connect
Discover how location-based entertainment trends shape projector design as we explore the importance of customer-centricity and co-creative partnerships in developing user-refined products.
Most of us have experienced disappointment when a much-anticipated product fails to live up to the hype. Often, this happens when users are forced to adapt to devices that prioritize a single benefit over their real-world needs and preferences.
Consider the case of touchscreen controls in cars. Though drivers prefer physical buttons, many car-makers continue to equip their vehicles with touchscreens. A similar scenario unfolds in the battle between vinyl records and CDs—while digital audio is often hailed as superior, the resurgence of vinyl sales challenges that notion. Even the concept of the Metaverse, with its exciting possibilities, faces criticism from those who claim that in a business context, at least, it’s a solution in search of a problem.
In these cases, there is a gap between what the product designer thinks the users want from an experience and what they actually need. So, how can we avoid this situation?
A user-centric approach to product design
When it comes to designing projectors to support immersive media-based experiences, the key is for manufacturers to cultivate a co-creative and collaborative relationship with stakeholders in order to gain a better understanding of the problems they face. This allows them to design products that solve them and enhance the profitability of our customer’s business.
In the realm of location-based entertainment attraction design, it can be difficult to discern which trends are worth investing in and which will be short-lived novelties, so it is important to understand the customer’s ultimate ambition with regard to the kind of entertainment experience they want to provide.
By joining forces with our clients at their site or our XR Lab, we create a diverse knowledge pool that enriches each project phase, leading to better-designed products. An illustration of this approach is our REQ12 Series 1-Chip DLP projector. Let’s look at how this model was developed and how it aligns with the evolving trends in LBE.
Meeting demand for immersive experiences
The demand for immersive experiences continues to surge, with guests expecting ever-higher levels of visual realism in media-based attractions. Particularly in immersive 360° spaces where images completely envelop the viewers, maintaining the illusion poses significant challenges for engineers. To address this, our engineers work alongside customers to identify challenges and develop solutions that enhance image realism and create a captivating experience.
When guests venture close to the screen to scrutinize fine details like brushstrokes, it’s not only high image resolution that is important. It’s also crucial to ensure focus uniformity. When introducing new lenses for the REQ12 Series, we incorporated powered periphery focus adjustment. This means achieving uniform focus from the image center to the edges is easily accomplished via remote control, resulting in a realistic viewing experience even up close.
Furthermore, we’ve made strides in enhancing contrast. Our customers wanted to avoid the issue of dimming during high-contrast scenes, prompting us to develop new scene analysis circuitry that enables better detection of the nuances between dark and light shades in each video frame and ensures optimal contrast throughout.
Increasing fidelity with the source content
A projector’s ability to accurately reproduce red is paramount, particularly for artwork. Until recently, accurate red has been the domain of 3-Chip DLP products. To replicate their high performance in a smaller platform, we developed Rich Color Enhancer. This technology expands the red-channel output to deliver more accurate red tones.
Additionally, we noticed that customers struggled to fix color banding issues, which often surface only when content is projected. Gradation Smoother, introduced for the first time on a 1-Chip DLP projector, addresses this issue. It smooths away color banding in gradients at the touch of a button, ensuring a seamless visual experience.
Edge blends are another important aspect, especially when projecting at 4K on curved screens. Imperfections in blending become more noticeable in such scenarios. To counter this, we evolved our black-level adjustment technology to include point-based adjustment. This allows the black borders to match screen curvature and black levels to be set inside the blends with a high degree of precision. The result? Flawless and imperceptible edge blends that merge images seamlessly.
Responding to the latest trends
The growing trend of gamification also influenced the REQ12 Series design. We recognize the strong demand for interactive and personalized experiences that enable guests to connect with the story and each other.
To achieve this, it’s important that projectors integrate with peripheral equipment to enhance the quality of AR/XR applications, making them repeatable and shareable. With the ability to display 2K/240 Hz video without motion blur or image artifacts, the REQ12 Series can smoothly reproduce the fast-paced action of XR gameplay or eSport tournament events. Moreover, its 2K/240 Hz capability syncs with our Real-Time Tracking Projection-Mapping SDK, allowing for the limitless fusion of digital and analog elements within XR attractions. This system enables the creation of immersive and social gameplay experiences without the need for VR headgear.
Inspiring confidence in the long term
Reliability is a paramount consideration. Business operators shouldn’t have to worry about potential failures impacting the guest experience or the headaches associated with filter changes, lamp replacements, and regular image calibration. To ensure a sustainable experience, REQ12 Series includes an optical compliant with IP5X Dust Protected standard, ensuring optimal performance even in dusty environments.
Additionally, it features an Intel SDM slot that adapts to system infrastructure with various connections and AVoIP standards available through optional function boards, thereby allowing the attraction to run on a common protocol. This integration enhances system reliability and efficiency, streamlining automation processes.
Look beyond the product’s design
Projectors play a vital role in creating compelling media-based attractions. However, a collaboration between the technology partner and the customer will ultimately bring your vision to life. When evaluating different projector brands, we encourage you to look beyond the device’s design and consider the comprehensive range of services and expertise that support it.
Chad Kunimoto is the Global Business Development Manager for Themed Entertainment and Immersive Experiences at Panasonic Connect. If you’re interested in learning more about the services and technologies that underpin a partnership with Panasonic Connect, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.