The Magic Kingdom will not play host to any VR headsets in the near future, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger. That’s because the company doesn’t want to detract its guests from the reality of being in the most magical place on earth. Instead, the Walt Disney Company is said to be exploring the possibility of using AR in its place.
Using VR guests would be transported to an entirely virtual world, hence the name virtual reality. The technology is already in use at theme parks across the world, including Alton Towers in the UK, Knott’s Berry Farm in California, and several Six Flags locations in the United States. It’s fair to say that these theme parks aren’t as intrinsically themed as Disney’s staple of theme parks. The company’s range of locations includes the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and the latest addition, Shanghai Disney Resort.
Speaking at a USC Marshall and Anneberg event in Santa Monica, Iger notes that wearing a headset would completely destroy the reality of being in a House of Mouse theme park. Noting that any use of VR would be “ersatz” to what guests are currently able to enjoy. He’s gone so far as to instruct his team to not even consider the technology as viable.
Despite the explicit instruction that VR would have no place inside Disney’s theme parks, Iger left the door open for augmented reality experiences. Despite still requiring a headset, Iger likes the idea of blending the environments created by Disney’s team of imagineers with virtual objects. He notes one such experience at the company’s engineering labs, where he spends each Tuesday afternoon wearing a head-mounted device and dueling with a Stormtrooper with a lightsaber – all made possible through AR.
Disney’s love of augmented reality is no secret. The company’s research arm has already shown off several concepts of how the technology could enhance a user’s life, while Lucasfilm has partnered with mixed reality specialists Magic Leap to bring the world of Star Wars to life in augmented reality.
With Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, set to get a dedicated Star Wars Land in the near future, it’s not completely unbelievable that augmented reality experiences could make their way into that project. Iger wouldn’t confirm anything, although he did note that there will be an attraction that will allow guests to joyride in the cockpit of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.