The Theme Park of the Future: How Current Design Innovations Inform Provocative Predictions

Technology

The easiest way to write futuristic science fiction is to predict, with rigor and absolute accuracy, the present day.” – Cory Doctorow, Overclocked

What does the future of the theme park look like? It’s going to be AWESOME! Can we be a bit more specific? Sure! By taking a closer look at how we design theme parks and then analyzing some of our recent innovations, we can track trends into the future and build up a case for some provocative predictions. And along the way we’ll share some “insider scoop”, because everybody likes that.

 “To infinity, and beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear

How do we design theme parks? It’s complicated – at FORREC there are 140 of us in five in-house studios (architecture, interior design, landscape, graphics and creative) across five sectors (theme parks, water parks, resorts, attractions and mixed use + retail), and we all work together in project teams. I’m one of our Creative Directors and we’re typically heavily involved at the start of a project, so let’s focus on the Concept Design phase.

Concept Design is a very exciting time when a project could still be ANYTHING! We’re generating high level ideas, big ideas; strong stories that can carry the project forward. These big ideas are by their nature nebulous, and best presented as written narratives and loose sketches.

 “No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative. It gets the people going!” – Will Ferrell

The very strengths of these sketches as communication tools – purposefully vague, hugely evocative, wildly out of scale – also have the potential to cause problems down the line when the architecture department is tasked with reconciling concept with reality. These reconciliations could be both inefficient AND risky, as the big idea is in danger of literally being lost in translation. Conversely, early base model 3D renders can be lifeless, drawing attention to meaningless details and unresolved issues, derailing the conversation.

 “Those terraces need railings.” – The LDI

Our innovation was to involve the 3D modelers into the process very early on, working in tandem with the illustrators right from the outset;

• An Illustrator prepares a series of loose sketches based on a brainstorming concept.
• Those sketches are the base for a simple 3D massing model, adjusted to align with the master plan.
• Cameras are set up in the 3D model and snapshots are rendered out as a base for the Illustrator, now with scale and perspective.
• The Illustrator sketches over these simple renderings of the model, adding more detail and bringing the concept to life.
• The model is updated with more detail, reviewed in VR, re-rendered for the illustrator.
• Back and forth the Illustrator/Modeler dialogue continues until the concept is sufficiently refined and the resultant info package is handed off to a Digital Painter for the final presentation illustration.

The 3D models and renders in no way replace the sketches, rather they enrich each other while developing the concept in parallel. Crucially, the 3D model lives on as an asset that facilitates a multitude of next steps – final realistic renderings and animation, calculation of surface area for material estimates, section slices for profile studies, base model info for CAD drawings, 1:1 client design review in VR, and 3D printing of details and manufacturing molds.
With our technological innovations now tracked, we can chart a path forward, projecting our Illustrator/Modeler relationship out into a future of provocative predictions…

• Imagine the Illustrator in a VR room, using hand-held controllers to draw 3D lines in the air, sculpting the ride around them.
– We do this now.

• The Modeler works alongside the Illustrator in VR, adding 3D detail and new components in real time.
– We do this now.

• The Client joins us in VR for a walkthrough of the concept, and we review our presentation deck on a TV within the VR concept.
– We did this last week.

• What if we place AI avatars in the VR concept space to test pre-show and queue times? Or let’s install a real motion platform next to our VR room, to simulate our concept’s ride experience.
– Next month?

• Special guests are invited to be beta testers for our prototype VR attractions, logging in from their home VR rigs to replace the AI avatars.
– This fall?

• Guests purchase their own motion platforms with four pole galvanic vestibular stimulators and haptic exoskeletons, to experience FORREC’s latest VR attractions at home…
– Next year?

Innovation is a constant, one that will continue to impact not just how we design, but what we design. And while one can provocatively predict a future where a theme park is experienced from home, at FORREC we believe that there will always be shared, physical experiences that are impossible to replicate virtually. But what’s even more compelling is to envision big ideas – stories – that have the power to weave together this new abundance of experiential platforms, uniting singular experiences into a transformative journey.

Image Credits
haptx Force Feedback Exoskeleton
All other images property of FORREC

 

September 2019 • Written by Peter Marshall