#1187 – Amazing Attractions Extravaganza! Part 3

For those who attended the show floor, the majority were wedded to their respective booths, or only able to gather a snapshot of trends spread over a handful of booths over the four days of hectic conference, show floor, and partying. 

Luckily, The Stinger Report, supported by our affiliates, was able to gather its usual detailed and exclusive rundown of key trends and developments on and off the Orlando trade floor. In this third part, we look at Active Play, AR and Robots, as well as the new trends presented to the business, as with Social Entertainment.

Let’s Get Physical

The other major trend in the technology sphere seen at IAAPA’23 was a strong show of “Active Gaming” providers. Many of the Immersive enclosures could be described as active, and supporting this was exhibitor Valo Motion celebrating a wholly active year and their first exhibition space at IAAPA Orlando, with the launch of a new packaged active entertainment offering. ‘ValoPark’ is a turnkey, “mini-park”, entertainment space, employing the Valo Motion range of products, comprising ‘ValoJump’, ‘ValoClimb’, and ‘ValoArena’, in a package that can be deployed as a standalone venue, offering a chance to bring this style of play to the mall business, all offered in a flexible space format. Building on the over 1,000 installations of their platform, the company showed at IAAPA’23 over five new forms of game content for the various platforms, keeping them competitive and compelling. 

Funovation, the experts in small footprint “booster” attractions, was represented by members of the company along with their updated ‘Laser Maze Challenge 3’ enclosure. The company revealed their new game experience, ‘Entrapment’, and their ‘Raid: Game Chamber’, the personification of an immersive enclosure. Turnkey solutions are launched via touchscreen, offering an active game experience in a self-contained package, offering puzzle and memory games within the space for multiple players. 

Marking a trend, one of the Chinese exhibitors, GameArt, showed their own interactive floor system with ‘Super Parkour’ – offering a flexible platform with a number of games. The company was also promoting their ‘Interactive Bike Racing’ experience, with players peddling to power their respective slot cars. The Battle Company also presented their ’FlashPads’ interactive floor platform in a unique turnkey offering, run from the kiosk with multiple games available for up-to-four players. Meanwhile, TimeMission, developer of “mission room” interactive game room franchises, with multiples of physical experiences, unveiled their move into the Immersive Enclosures business with the launch of their ‘MissionBox’. This is a digital experience, using an illuminated interactive floor game enclosure, building off the mission room principle and for up-to-five players.

Augmenting the Environment 

Beyond the theme park augmented platforms we have previously touched on, “AR” (Augmented Reality) was starting to gather market retention. Such as from BoldMove Nation with their ‘Raptor Expedition’, an AR walkthrough with digital effects and the guest using their own tablet viewer, with skill levels based on AI. The company also promoted their ‘FUSION’ immersive dark ride, and ‘Smash & Reload’ IP is now joined by a new IP with ‘Voodoo Festival’.

AR can be achieved through two applications: the first being “See-Through” AR that uses lenses or windows to see the augmented digital environment; while there is also “Pass-Through” AR that represents the augmented digital effects seen through a camera on a screen. 

As IAAPA’23 exhibitor Enklu had previous revealed, in our IAAPA EU coverage where we broke the news, the company’s AR platform would be deployed as a standalone experience. Main Event is one of the first to install the ‘Verse Holographic Theater’ at their Grapevine, Texas, location. The company was reporting sold-out pre-sales on the October opening weekend, to use the holographic experience. The theatre system runs the ‘Unreal Garden’ content, incorporating AI-powered elements to the adventure, and the platform employs Microsoft HoloLens 2 AI headsets. Enklu came to IAAPA’23 with a demonstration of their Verse platform, allowing attendees to experience the AR elements on the HoloLens 2 platform. Attendees were also invited to a VIP event held at the ‘Verse Orlando’ venue to experience the full adventure. 

The use of immersive interactive digital mascots has grown in LBE and park deployment and, although not exhibiting at IAAPA’23, one of the leaders in this implementation is Animalive – with their ‘AnimaChat’ turnkey solution of interacting with guests through a digital mascot or character. This is supported by ‘Sage’, an AI chatbot that has been developed to enhance the experience. This is an example of how artificial intelligence is being deployed into the parks business.

Defining Game Trends

A need to employ the latest thinking in the game experience on offer sees greater deployment of “Gamification”, applying a game element to more traditional play – as represented on the Raceparx and Biz Kart booths, with Combat Karting, an indoor karting capability, adding a game element to the experience, and adding a touchscreen dashboard to the cart. In what the company calls a “gamified karting” experience, the system is offered as a franchise turnkey package for operators – with a heads-up display and ability to shoot opponents’ carts, with shields and power boosts.

Amusement Products is celebrating some 60 years supporting the sector, and the company has been promoting their ‘PowerUp Karting’ platform, offering a game element to the conventional racing go-kart experience – with the inclusion of scoring and on-course targets for indoor and outdoor application. Regarding gamified karting, one of those driving the scene, following a major IAAPA EU showing, BattleKart announced their continued expansion of their MR projection mapped karting environment – as it moves to a new Melbourne, Australia, location, growing their 20-facility business into a new territory.

An aspect of the gamified horizon for the business is the application of “Frictionless” systems into the gaming mix. Exhibitors like Attraction.io presented their immersive mapping experience, using real-time dynamic lighting. The company released their first software development kit with ‘MapLayr’, which offers the ability to create wayfinder maps linked into physical effects, powered by the mobile app. The system has already been employed by San Diego Zoo and by Merlin Entertainment.

Other platforms on show at IAAPA’23 included Easy RFID Pro with their low-cost tracking system for guests and services. These are supported by a perfusion of the latest cashless payment management systems, such as from Embed, reflecting the stirring in the industry about excessive licensing and subscription fees. Embed promoted their Mobile Wallet system, offering 12-months free support, and also offered a payment gateway consultant, reflecting what had previous been covered in LBX Collective “Sounding Off” podcasts about the need to handle the valuable data collected through these payment systems – such as the company’s ‘smartTOUCH’ card reader platform. Also holding their popular mixer, we would like to offer thanks for their hospitality. 

Intercard introduced their new ‘iQ’ reader and kiosk platform, based on QR code reading and intended for amusement center payment deployment – also celebrating with their major party event. Semnox reported the successful installation of their system at several venues, including ‘The Zone’ and ‘Kokomo Joe’s Rolla’ venues. Meanwhile, show exhibitor and sponsor accesso Technology Group presented the new addition to their lineup, with the ‘accesso Passport’ e-commerce ticketing platform.

The reality of the modern market is that amusement venues have started a massive rollout of ePayment systems. Card readers are becoming a major investment across all sites – building on the momentum of the past Global Health Crisis and the move to a cashless environment. FECFIN showed their ‘Pulse’ terminal – a robust credit card point-of-sales unit that is targeting both vendors and amusement deployment.  

One of the new trends that were seen across IAAPA’23, but may have been overlooked, was the explosion in “Kiosk” applications – the use of touchscreen platforms to allow audience services. This is split into three areas, the first is guest registrations, with touchscreen terminals that are even printing the wristbands to the guest. Next are the photobooth kiosks, offering unique features and physical printouts. 

Finally, there are guest information services supplied through the kiosk system, with many offering smart search features, and this data being supported by machine learning. These systems are also supporting accessibility for challenged guests, so widening the inclusivity of the venue. This also all includes the creation of memories and memorable takeaways, becoming ever more important to the modern facility guest, having to support both physical images, as well as digital and social media distributed ones. Exhibitors offering such include Apple Industries and Digital Photobooth, along with other presented unique image capture platforms.

Attack of the Drones!

Charting the trends and “AI and Robotics” were on many lips – attendees to the show were keen to learn more about the impact of these technologies on their future bottom lines, and if they can be applied to address the cost-of-living financial impacts on overheads and staffing issues. 

Robots and Drones are making their impact on the attractions and amusement scene felt. The IAAPA conference lineup included discussions on drone applications, supported by exhibition partner SkyElements, with demonstrations of drone night display technology presented at the northside of the OCCC venue, employing some 400 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) after the show closed (across two nights) – this is the first time this has been rolled into the event lineup. The company was battling weather conditions, aiming to break the Guinness World Record for the largest animated image using drones, creating a giant moving American flag. Exhibitor Pixel Swarm Drones was also promoting their platform with its illuminated drones and swarming capability. Along with other exhibitors UVify and Image Engineering, and with drone manufacturer WG Drones.

Specific facility support platforms were in evidence at the show in greater perfusion. Bowlmarc Robotics presented their ‘Bella’ service robot, an all-in-one robotic platform for the bowling industry, clearing tables and delivering services, now being applied across all aspects of the entertainment venue scene. Also showing was Hospitality Robot, with their third-party representation of popular service robot system range from RobotLabs

Robotics also permeated into the amusement scene, as we reveal later with the ‘JJ Bot’ crane machine from Smart Industries, representing the Chinese manufactured design, with the robotic arm supported by a cute, animated avatar screen. Interesting to see this innovation in crane/claw machines, as the concept celebrates its 97th anniversary (the first amusement piece being ‘Erie Digger’, in 1926). The deployment of robot arms within the amusement system was also seen from Sweet Robo, and their “Vendortainment” range of cotton candy and ice-cream robot vended machines. All falling into the smart “Vendortainment” trend. 

While show attendees were not worried by a robot rampage, the world of robotics had been rocked by the news of the first fatality caused by robot operation. A South Korean technician, during November, was crushed by the loading robot he had been installing, as a safety sensor failed to work properly. An active police investigation into the fatality incident is underway. 

Social Entertainment 

Expected to be a dedicated Pavilion all of its own for IAAPA 2024, the social entertainment scene as personified by ‘Competitive Socializing’ (CompSoc) was evident across the show floor, with many exhibitors now pivoting their products to be inducive towards these aspects of the business. 

LASERTRON came to the show to promote their new, giant, 98inch screen ‘Axe Throwing’ AR enclosure for the entertainment experience. The company has taken their enclosure and turnkey application to create ‘Krazy Darts’ – offering an AR darts system based on the same principle, with 15-mini games. Champ Throw Interactive presented ‘Champ Throw’ – an axe throwing lane enclosure system with projection mapped targets and automatic scoring, all supported by an ordering and selection kiosk. The system represents the social entertainment application of the game.

Marking their first IAAPA presence, Immersive Gamebox brought an example of their immersive game enclosure, using their unique hat-based tracking system. The company was looking for interested parties in their franchise model, and presented their licensed game content, including their ‘Squid Game’ Netflix property, and, for the show, revealed their latest game ‘Ghostbusters: The Cursed Collection’, developed in collaboration with Columbia Pictures Location Based Entertainment and Sony. This first appearance also saw the company taking away the Best Exhibit Award from the show organizers. 

Dedicated for social entertainment, 1000 Boxes returned to the show after an award winning 2022 exhibition. The multiple player gameshow format experience is clearly offering a social group-based experience. We have already mentioned several of the Immersive enclosure and tracked ball throwing game systems, such as Playmind and their ‘Playbox’ – now aiming for a CompSoc application. Embracing both an active sports approach and social entertainment, exhibitor Full Swing presented their golf simulator at the show (incorporating a PGA Tour license). These golf sim suites are finding a growing interest in the CompSoc sector. 

From robots on the lanes, to specially developed social entertainment applications for the new generation of boutique bowling venues. Brunswick came to the Orlando show with their ‘Duckpin Social’. As seen at the European IAAPA showcase, the company is calling their social bowling experience a “one-of-a-kind” entertainment attraction – and it does fit the current trend of gamified attractions being placed in social entertainment venues. Meanwhile, QubicaAMF Bowling Products also promoted a strong platform, able to be configured for the social revolution, and supported by the ‘HyperBowling’ kiosk system, and their ‘Edge String’ social bowling platform.

Represented on the SEGA Amusement International (SAI) booth, 501 Entertainment had their ‘AR Darts’ platform, now including the ‘LIVES’ new augmented reality (AR) darts game. Their current system is live in 300 connected retail amusement and hospitality locations. The new game being optimized for social entertainment, giving each player three-lives, having to beat the score of the previous player in a socially-fun game. Social Entertainment is. looking to be on the cusp of a revolution for Out-of-Home Entertainment.

About the author

Kevin Williams

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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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