Can artificial intelligence help you enjoy a better visit on your next trip to a theme park?
The crew at Thinkwell explored that question in their latest Annual Guest Experience Trend Report, surveying a sample of more than 1,300 respondents about the use of AI in themed entertainment. The report offers "big ideas" for the use of AI: Managing virtual queues to replace all physical queuing, creating responsive automated guides, and providing support for human hosts to enhance guest interactions.
One major park already has eliminated physical queuing - Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay. But Volcano Bay's TapuTapu system still relies on guests taking the initiative to walk to tap points to join virtual queues for the park's water slides. The Thinkwell report envisions recommendation algorithms driving an intelligent virtual queuing system, so that "A.I. can balance each person’s needs to ensure the best possible day for everyone."
The company reported that 85 percent of respondents reacted positively to the idea. However, as the report noted, "no artificial intelligence can solve every challenge of a busy park with only so much capacity."
Furthermore, "reinventing the queuing experience will require reinventing the entire park infrastructure to accommodate all the guests who are no longer waiting in lines, such as by adding significantly more flexible entertainment spaces and lounge areas."
That's part of the reason why 100 percent virtual queuing works at Volcano Bay. As a water park, Volcano Bay offers plentiful beaches and pools to accommodate guests while they await their next water slide ride time. Theme parks don't typically have those type of catch-all areas.
Thinkwell's second prediction aims more at museums, envisioning a digital guide that draws upon everything from visitors' social media to the way they react to exhibits on site to adjust customized recommendations for where to go and what to do next. The company said that 75 percent of respondents felt positively about the idea, with a majority liking the idea of more efficiency on their trip, while the leading objection was a loss of time to wander freely.
The final prediction was connecting all employees to a resort-wide AI network, "allowing them to predict each guest’s needs and make more personalized interactions."
Walt Disney World has taken a step toward this with the My Magic+ system, but Thinkwell notes that this concept has been around for a much longer time, from notes in restaurant reservation systems to guests wearing an "It's My Birthday!" badge. Thinkwell's prediction envisions a supercharged version that allows employees to draw upon the experience of every interaction that the guest has had at the resort so far, instead of having them start from scratch to anticipate a guest's wants and needs.
In other words, let's use an AI system to help more cast members be able to answer correctly "when is the 3:00 parade?" questions.
Seventy percent of respondents responded positively to this idea, with many looking forward to more personalized interactions, while others worried about ensuing social awkwardness or becoming an unwanted center of attention.
Implementing AI within any environment raises concerns about the perpetuation of developers' racial and social biases, which Thinkwell acknowledges. Computing systems cannot yet scale to the levels required to implement all of the uses that the report envisions, but that just provides time for businesses and consumers to refine exactly what they want from AI.
"As the technology evolves in increasingly complex, multifaceted directions worthy of further study and analysis, the same can be said for the ways that people themselves understand, interact with, and form opinions about this technology," the report concludes.
Again, you can read the report on Thinkwell's website.
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