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Virtual Reality and Other Technology: Changing Times Call for Changing Protocols

Magic Bands Provide a Touchless Experience at Walt Disney World
Magic Bands have been in use for several years now and provide guests with touchless fast pass check-in, merchandise and dining purchases, and entry to the park.

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Evo Heyning, CEO of @LightLodges and PlayableAgency, creates Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, streams shows, and produces features as well as building VR experiences for theme parks including Universal Studios. “We are currently retrofitting VR for Universal,” she notes. She adds that overall “The industry has been flipping away from VR location-based experiences model and toward other types of engagement. We produce features, build teams, create experiences, and stream shows…[right now we] recommend pivoting toward participatory media, VR events bringing people together.”

In a recent white paper, from the Thinkwell company, the idea is noted that when it comes to VR Goggles and 3D glasses, post-pandemic, will people actually “want a device, like a virtual reality goggle set and headgear at all so close to their eyes, noses, and mouths after the world goes back to some form of normal?  Even with obvious cleaning, that puts the technology and the multi-use headgear and goggles uncomfortably close to the guests' faces.   What will happen with VR in public spaces?”  With 3D the option of single-use, wrapped 3D glasses seems viable, or providing one pair for visitors to keep throughout their visit will work. For VR headsets, the solutions are less clearly defined as yet.

Cleanbox Virtual Reality Device Sanitizing System

Clean Box

Heyning says “VR at locations … there's one tech worth talking about, Cleanbox Technology in Southern California.”

The Carlsbad, Calif. based company offers smart tech hygiene now in the form of a point of use decontamination product CleanDefense patented technology that could be vital for the amusement park industry, Heyning believes. The company uses UVC light in an LED to decontaminate hard-to-clean products worn on the face or head. With a focus on high risk contagion transfer points, its core products were designed for Augmented & Virtual Reality Head Mounted Devices (HMDs). Cleanbox products have been proven to safely eliminate 99.99+% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi within seconds.

For the uninitiated, UVC is a wavelength of light that does not occur naturally in the atmosphere, so viruses do not have a resistance to it. Unlike UVA and UVB rays, UVC is safe for decontaminating materials including fabrics, plastics and acrylic.

The products are environmentally friendly and have built in safety mechanisms to prevent risk of exposure to the powerful UVC light. Amy Hedrick, CEO and Co-Founder of Cleanbox says "Virtual & Augmented Reality headsets are made up of many different materials and delicate electronics that have multiple surfaces which are hard to reach. They are much more difficult to clean than say cell phones."

At Walk Disney World Resort, the VP of digital strategy, Kelly White, looks at new uses for MagicBands wearable tech, which offers interactive experiences, and can be purchased either online or in the park. The devices also allow park guests to touch in at the gates, open room doors, and pay for merchandise as well as food and beverages. Touchless is of course desirable today. Along with personalizing the park experiences and providing the ability for more touchless Covid-19 era safety, sensors throughout the parks stream data about what guests are doing, and when, in real-time, which is another helpful tech capability. This function can help with social distancing and safety as well as collecting and exchanging data for the park.

In the same vein, Unlimited Leisure Holdings' The Experience, can provide a queue-free park experience that lets guests pre-schedule their entire visit. That means including reserving time slots to visit all attractions, and helping to eliminate unsafe and crowded queue lines. The goal: increased guest comfort, and safety, as well as smoother park operations.

Crowd Solo, a new free social distancing app from Holvis offers queue management tools as well, including reservation times for attractions, real-time updating, and monitoring of guest movements for attractions. The app can eliminate or greatly reduce crowding, and improve park operating efficiency. The app is already in place globally.

In retail, VR and other tech possibilities are showing up as another large bright spot. With shoppers everywhere, including at theme-park adjacent stores, potentially perceiving buying as risky business, and online shopping deeply entrenched by safer-at-home shoppers, recent studies have revealed that shoppers would visit stores online more if they could enjoy an experiential experience. This means the use of immersive technology. That would dovetail well any theme park visit. Such technologies include holograms, project mapping, and even motion and facial tracking to personalize shopping experiences and also potentially make it a safer, more individualized retail world.

According to Neil Colquhoun, vice president of CISMEA and Professional Displays of Epson Europe, “Brands must use new tools to revolutionize their shops…” and in the attractions industry, this is even more essential. He posits that all ages, “Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen-Zers all want immersive events and attractions; now it's up to organizations to deliver on those expectations.”
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