The Walt Disney Company has been granted a patent that will enable multiple users to experience a 3D Virtual World from multiple vantage points without the use of glasses, goggles, or digital devices, according to The Orange County Register.

What’s Happening:

  • A patent was granted to The Walt Disney Company on December 28th by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a Virtual World Simulator, allowing for the simulation of a digital world of animated characters in a real-world theme park attraction.
  • The patent is set to take digital simulation beyond virtual reality and augmented reality, using the new abbreviation VW (for Virtual World) vs. the usual VR or AR.
  • Disney’s VW simulator will reportedly enable multiple users to experience a 3D environment from multiple vantage points without the use of any glasses, goggles, headsets, or smartphones.
  • The patent also states that Disney’s Virtual World Simulator can create 3D imagery using multiple projectors that generate a high rate of images per second and would also use Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) that will track the point of view of guests moving through the venue.

  • Founders Legal patent attorney Yuri Eliezer has noted that Disney appears to be fast tracking the development of the VW Simulator for a near term roll-out, with the patent also mentioning that the technology could be used to include animated characters along with simulated objects and props in a real-world environment.
  • John DeStefano, a patent and technology technical adviser who studied the recently approved patent alongside Eliezer at Founders Legal, also noted that projectors could be installed inside a dark ride room as something people enjoy while waiting in line or varying places throughout Disneyland Resort or Disney's theme parks at Walt Disney World.  
  • Speculatively speaking, fans may recall the original announcements of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway for Disney’s Hollywood Studios as being in “2 ½ D,” 3D without the use of glasses that never quite materialized. Could this be fast tracked for the Disneyland Park installation of this attraction due to open in 2023?

  • The patent also showcases some kind of handheld device that could also be used to point and reveal animated objects in the real world.
  • Disney is already well versed in projection mapping technology at their parks, with fireworks spectaculars that project down Main Street USA as well as on the landmark castles around the world, as well as in attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the aforementioned Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
  • Other parks went through a phase where VR helmets were adopted to update rides as a new experience, and Universal opted for an AR experience with Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge at Universal Studios Japan and soon at Universal Studios Hollywood, but goggles are still needed.
  • Disney has also adopted AR in favor of VR, but only in a few locations. Cast Members at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance reportedly use AR in training and operations of the attraction, and a test at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has guests getting a close up view of animals at the park thanks to the technology. Disney also uses AR technology in photo opportunities on Disney Genie+.

What They’re Saying:

  • Founders Legal patent and technology technical adviser John DeStefano: “Rather than look through a phone screen or a headset, Disney developed a system almost similar to a movie projector to project on a real surface what humans see on a screen. It’s more real-world experience rather than looking at it through a phone.”

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