Into geekspeak? Here's the abstract of Disney's application:
"A floating omnimover ride with high capacity throughput and enhanced control over speeds of passenger boats. The ride includes a water containment structure with spaced apart sidewalls defining an elongated guide channel that defines a loop-shaped ride path or circuit. The ride includes a volume of liquid contained in the guide channel to a desired depth. The ride also includes a chain of passenger boats floating in the liquid contained in the guide channel. Each of the boats is linked to the two adjacent boats with a connecting link such that the chain of boats is a continuous loop. The chain of boats has a length that is approximately equal to a length of the ride path, and during operation of the ride, the boats in the chain are moved along the loop-shaped ride path at a predefined rate by a pump station moving the liquid in the guide channel."
Translation? Picture Pirates of the Caribbean or It's a Small World with the boats all hooked together, nose to tail, a la the Doombuggies on the Haunted Mansion.
By linking the boats into a continuous chain, Disney would eliminate bumping and slower boats, which can disrupt the flow of guests through a ride. To maximize hourly capacity, the chain wouldn't stop to load and upload riders, so a moving walkway at the load and unload points would be necessary, as on Mansion. But Disney's been thinking about nifty ways to alter the omnimover ride experience. Here's one:
"In addition to the guide channel or trough, the ride system may also include an open bay or free-floating portion or section in which the boats are not guided by and do not contact nearby sidewalls. As long as a sufficient number of the floating vehicles are contained in and guided within the guide channel (or flowing or drive) portion or section of the ride system, other sections of the vehicle chain may be “undriven” by the water in the free-floating section or bay portion of the ride system. In this portion, the water may be relatively still or unflowing, but the boats in the vehicle chain will still follow a path between an exit of the guide channel and an entrance to the guide channel because they are pulled and/or pushed by the boats or vehicles traveling in the guide channel (where water is flowing to push the boats along the path between adjacent sidewalls). In the open bay or free-floating portion, the boats or vehicles may even be caused to traverse over land or out of the water by placing ramps in the path of the boats and providing pads or rollers/wheels on the bottom of the boat hulls/bodies. The pushing and pulling forces provided along the vehicle chain by the boats in the guide channel due to the flowing water will roll the boats in the open bay or free-floating portion over the dry or shallow portion of the ride. By including an open waterway in the ride system, the ride experience is enhanced as the boats appear to be magically guided and propelled through the still water with their boats spaced apart from guiding sidewalls."
The TL;DR? As long as you've got the boats chained together, you can take away the guide channel for a section of the ride, and the boats will continue to follow one another through that section. Heck, you could even move the chain of "boats" onto a land segment for a bit.
So where will we see this new type of omnimover boat ride? The consensus on Twitter seemed to be Shanghai Disneyland. But once a company proves a technology in one park, it's nice to get a return on that tech development expense by spreading the technology to other parks. Of course, if Disney gets this patent, that would block other theme park companies from developing similar rides, so US theme park fans would need to wait for Disney to decide to bring it over here.Tweet
So if nobody has already patented this, and the patent office doesn't decide this is so obvious as to be unpatentable, the new law might actually help.
BTW, I'd expect to see a lot of patent filings over the next month or so, as there may be many things that other have created that they didn't patent, and that patent-jumpers can now claim.
That is definitely Shanghai Pirates. The lake part will be a show similar to the one in DHS, and the boats (or at least the upper part of the boats) will turn to the center of the stage while continue to navigate sideways, and the guide channel part will be similar to the traditional pirates attraction.
A chained boat is the worst way to enjoy a boat ride. What would have gotten me excited is a kuka robotic arm that holds a boat and takes the boat on a journey with simulated jumps and spins. I give you this idea for free.
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