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Universal Studios Uses New Ride Tech to Challenge Disney

Universal Studios is working on ways to enhance theme park visitors' ride experiences and Disney World and Disneyland may be left behind.

While riding Disney's  (DIS)  popular Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland in California or Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, riders pass by the Grand Hall with ghosts dancing at a party. Or, at the end of the ride, ghosts will join you in your carriage as you exit.

You also may recall when riding the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride at a Disney park, Pooh falls asleep during the ride and a likeness of Pooh floats up and into a dream.

There are many examples of this type of special effect in many other Disney theme park rides and attractions, such as Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida and the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

The special effect used in the Haunted Mansion and other rides is known as the Pepper's Ghost illusion first created in 1862 by John Henry Pepper, a chemist and professor at Royal Polytechnic Institute in London, according to twowaymirrors.com. In simple terms, the process for the special effect involves using a plate of glass, lighting and a certain scene to reflect an image to the audience. When you hear people talking about smoke and mirrors, a Pepper's Ghost might be in the room.

Theme parks are hard at work inventing ways to update this 160 year-old special effect to enhance the experience for guests on rides and attractions.

Disney World Universal Studios Lead

Controlling a Ride With a Hand-held Device     

Comcast's  (CMCSA)  Universal Studios theme parks are working on the special effect to introduce new uses that it can introduce to the parks' rides. Universal City Studios on Aug. 11 filed for a U.S. patent application for an Interactive Pepper's Ghost Effect System that includes a sensor used in a hand-held device and a controller that can be configured to receive data feedback of voice audio from the handheld microphone device for voice commands.

The Interactive Pepper's Ghost System is able to select visual effects from a variety of options based on what a guest selects on the hand-held device or from the voice commands. The system will respond to the hand-held or voice commands with projections corresponding to the guests actions. 

This patent could lead to Universal using the Interactive Pepper's Ghost technology in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions to allow for such things as guests dueling with three-dimensional wizards or maybe using a Wizarding World wand to generate interactions with animated holograms, Theme Park Insider speculated

New Technology Could Be Introduced on Various Attractions

If it follows through with the patent, expect Universal to also utilize its new technology in the Super Nintendo World that opens at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023 and its new Epic Universe theme park set to launch in 2025.

Universal Studios Orlando might not incorporate the new technology with its Revenge of the Mummy ride anytime soon as it continues the ride's refurbishment that started on Jan. 7. The newly revamped ride was set to reopen Aug. 13, but was delayed, according to WDWNT. The purpose of the refurbishment was to update the ride's control booth, which is connected to all parts of the ride.

In addition, the company has the new Epic Universe theme park being built in Florida which is expected to include its Nintendo-themed rides as well as a third area devoted to Harry Potter. That park is expected to include brand new theme park innovations and could be a home for this new technology.