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The art of worldbuilding: putting the AR into pARks

Framestore HBO His Dark Materials app

Worldbuilding isn’t a new concept. From books, films or TV shows, stories big enough to fill a universe have long been a staple in entertainment.

By Mike McGee, Chief Creative Officer, Framestore.

However, today’s technology offers the opportunity for storytellers to move beyond words on a page or images on a flat screen, to create the most immersive interactive experiences.

I predict location-based entertainment will lead the charge in integrating AR into their real estate. Theme parks are already the ultimate immersive entertainment, allowing visitors to centre themselves in any number of different worlds, whether it’s back in time to the wild west or to a different planet or fantasy world.

Framestore His Dark Materials app worldbuilding

They are the obvious places to integrate mixed reality, and in that way develop a deeper and stronger connection between visitors, worlds and IPs. Whether it’s blockbusters like Marvel or Jurassic Park or childhood favourites like Asterix and Harry Potter.

Worldbuilding and theme park metaverses

Disney Parks’ head of digital and technology Tilak Mandadi has talked at length about ‘theme park metaverses’ which will see them accelerate the adoption of technologies that have been at the heart of Framestore projects for LBEs and AR-integrated apps.

Incorporating AR into an already-special experience can enhance and create the most immersive worlds. Painstakingly created environments are amplified by personalised touches, tiny details and hidden easter eggs which can deliver next-level engagement.

Galaxy's Edge Droids
The Droid Depot at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Visitors to Disney are already using technology for an enhanced experience. There are already myriad opportunities for ‘Magic Shots’ where at specific locations around the parks, guests can take photos with 2D characters and props.

Guests are also able to use the parks app to interact with their surroundings at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge including chatting with droids, scanning crates or tuning into transmissions.

Turning passive experiences into active interactions

AR can take worldbuilding a step further using the visitors’ own devices. Imagine these experiences integrated with real-time rendering and 5G connectivity. At the touch of a button, passive experiences become active interactions.

Live AR experiences can be part of every guests’ own personal device, with the highest-quality 3D rendered visuals. Whether they’re fully-digital or live-action characters. It even enables visitors to take on their favourite characters’ super-powers or abilities.

A great example of this kind of interaction is the My Daemon companion app that we created with HBO ahead of the second series of His Dark Materials. Users can discover their own custom daemon and also interact with them through AR integration. The app brings 3D, real-time rendered CG daemons into the real world to create bespoke photo and video content.

Non-intrusive, socially-distanced entertainment

Adding this kind of functionality to theme parks will provide welcome additional experiences. Particularly as they have been impacted by the physical constraints of social distancing. Non-intrusive AR hotspots can be integrated throughout the park to keep guests engaged while they wait for their favourite attractions.

Framestore has long been an advocate of the worldbuilding opportunities of mixed reality, both from a technical and creative perspective. We love telling stories and even more so when those stories converge with the real world. I’m looking forward to our continued partnerships with clients and answering briefs that will allow us to keep creating unforgettable experiences.

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Mike McGee

Mike McGee is one of the founders of Framestore and its chief creative officer. He works closely with teams across the creative studio to create new experiences at a time where everyone feels like they’ve seen it all before.

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