The United States Patent & Trademark Office published five patent applications from Universal today, led by a proposal for a flume ride where the ride vehicle can point to the side as well as straight ahead.
Direction-changing vehicles on thrill rides seems to be one of the big trends in attraction design right now. At the IAAPA Attractions Expo and Destination D event in Orlando earlier this month, Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek made a big deal of how the roller coaster cars on Epcot's new Guardians of the Galaxy ride will be able to turn to face in multiple directions. Chapek called the ride a "story-telling coaster."
Disney's found a fresh way to do that, but the general effect will be familiar to anyone who's ridden Universal's Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which uses a combination of motion base and roller coaster technology to create an experience where cars can pivot like a dark ride and also glide like a coaster.
At some point, it was inevitable that a theme park company was going to try to apply this to flume or boat rides. And that's what Universal proposes in its application, System and Method for Kinetic Rotation of a Ride Vehicle, published today and filed in May 2017.
Shanghai Disneyland's Pirates ride pivots, but it uses underwater tracks rather than simply flumes to direct its boats (*updated), so Universal's is a different approach. Universal's proposal does not rely on expensive motion bases or other mechanical contraptions to rotate the flume ride vehicles. Instead, it takes a simpler approach, using objects positioned within the flume to turn the vehicle. It's similar to how obstacles along a course can help rotate the rafts on a river rapids attraction, except more controlled and for traditional, forward-facing "boat ride" vehicles.
The vehicle may contact the one or more objects at a location that is a specific distance from the vehicle's center of mass. Thus, once the vehicle contacts the one or more objects, the linear motion of the vehicle as it rides along the flow path may be transferred into rotational motion. The ride vehicle may continue to contact one or more of the objects until the ride vehicle has reached a desired degree of rotation. Accordingly, the vehicle may be a simple structure as well, without complex steering mechanisms.
Universal also applied for a patent for a Variable Vehicle Ride Switch, again with the ability to change a ride vehicle's direction mid-course.
Other patent applications included System and Method for Tracking Vehicles in Parking Structures, a Tracking System and Method for Use in Surveying Amusement Park Equipment, and Systems for Ride Vehicle Restraint, which describes lap bar and restraint systems that could "simultaneously accommodate guests of a wide spectrum of shapes and sizes."
Okay, aspiring and amateur designers playing at home... what would you do with this proposed tech in the parks?Tweet
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