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Disney patents 'Virtual World Simulator' that would project personalized 3-D images for guests

The technology would project moving 3-D images onto real-world objects to interact with visitors on an individual level.
Credit: Walt Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney park-goers may one day find themselves interacting with 3-D, augmented reality experiences thanks to a patent the theme park giant was recently approved for. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office approved a patent put forth by Disney Enterprises, Inc. on Dec. 28, 2021, for a technology called "Virtual World Simulator."

According to patent documents, the technology would project moving 3-D images onto real-world objects to interact with guests on an individual level.

In other words, the technology wouldn't be to entertain mass audiences, like how Disney World's "Fantasmic" show projects images onto water, but would essentially create a personalized experience. 

The tracking system would be used to "track a moving perspective of one of a user in the real-world venue or a camera in the real-world venue," the patent reads. 

At this time, Disney says it has no plans to introduce the "Virtual World Simulator" into any upcoming experiences but that it is excited about the possibilities of this type of technology.

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Here's what Disney-lovers may one day get to experience:

The virtual effects projected onto the real-world environment could be "simulations of persons, avatars, characters, caricatures of a person, animals, plants, and living things of various species or varieties, as well as inanimate objects."

To complete the metaverse experience, cameras, optical sensors and mapping will be used to determine the "moving perspective" of the user while engaging with the augmented reality experience.

The patent also calls for the technology, under certain implementations, to perform head, eye and skeleton tracking of users in the real-world venue. The tracking of hands is also discussed "in order to enable detection of gestures, such as a pointing motion."

On top of that, Disney wants these metaverse interactions to happen without the use of AR devices like headsets, glasses, or personal devices. 

"Despite their inability to provide a true 3D virtual experience, AR glasses, goggles, and headsets can be costly and inconvenient to wear. In addition, the increased concern over the spread of communicable disease will likely mandate burdensome sanitation procedures in usage environments in which wearable AR viewing equipment is shared by multiple users," the patent documents read.

Other concerns broached in the patent are that AR-enabled devices keep users from sharing a similar experience and keep users from experiencing a 3-D immersive simulation that is rendered to their vantage point.

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Plus, it seems like Disney might be considering the "Virtual World Simulator" in spaces outside of its theme parks.  

"In some implementations, real-world venue 120 may take the form of a personal residence, a theme park attraction, a game environment, or a film or broadcast studio, to name a few examples," patent documents read.

The move to have the physical and digital world of Disney collide was previously hinted at during the company's 2021 fourth-quarter earnings call. 

CEO Bob Chapek outlined a future for those on the call where Disney's storytelling could take place without boundaries. 

"Suffice it to say, our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we'll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse," Chapek said at the time.

"And we look forward to creating unparalleled opportunities for consumers to experience everything Disney has to offer across our products and platforms wherever the consumer may be," he added.

The Walt Disney Company files hundreds of patents each year in an effort to constantly explore technological advancements, according to the theme park.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine mandate put on pause at Walt Disney World



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