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Disney patents ‘virtual-world simulator’ tech without headsets

The new technology will offer an immersive experience beyond virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).


The Walt Disney Company has been granted a patent for a ‘virtual-world simulator’ that would allow multiple visitors to experience a 3D virtual world without VR headsets or AR-enabled devices.

Disney’s patent was granted on December 28, 2021 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The technology will enable Disney to simulate a digital world within a real-world theme park.

It would create 3D imagery using multiple projectors, offering an immersive experience beyond virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which require headsets and smart devices.

Disney’s new technology would use simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) to “determine the moving perspective” of the user in a real-world attraction.

Disney’s new ‘virtual-world simulator’

disney virtual world simulator

Virtual effects projected by the virtual-world simulator could include animated characters, objects and props. For example, guests may see a virtual Minnie Mouse playing with Figaro at Fantasyland.

Disney plans to introduce virtual world simulations into real-world venues such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World, according to Founders Legal patent and technology technical adviser John DeStefano.

“What’s happening here is it’s actually being projected,” DeStefano told Spectrum News.

“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.”

3D imagery using multiple projectors

disney virtual world simulator

“Disney believes others are going to get into this space,” Founders Legal patent attorney Yuri Eliezer told the publication. “They want to make sure they get this patent first.”

Tilak Mandadi, head of digital and technology for Disney parks, experiences and products, revealed more about the company’s vision for a ‘theme park metaverse’ during IAAPA in November 2020.

Described as “connected park experiences that transcend the physical and digital barrier and unlock new layers of storytelling”, the metaverse is “where physical and digital worlds converge”, Mandadi said.

Images: US Patent and Trademark Office

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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