Ready to duel with three-dimensional wizards in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? You could be able to do that someday soon, if Universal follows through on a patent application it has filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The application is for an "Interactive Pepper's Ghost Effect System." If you're not a theater or theme park design geek, a Pepper's Ghost is the old-time mirror trick that's behind many of the "hologram" effects seen at attractions and events these days. You can see a Pepper's Ghost effect in Disney's Haunted Mansion ballroom scene and in the Star Wars Rise of the Resistance queue, for a couple of examples from major theme parks. Heck, Major League Baseball used a Pepper's Ghost effect to create a hologram Harry Carey at its Field of Dreams game in Iowa this week.
The quality of Pepper's Ghosts illusions can vary wildly, but unless they employ live actors on the other end of the mirror assembly, they cannot react to their audience. But Universal's system seeks to change that. By creating a way for a Pepper's Ghost to respond and react to a viewer's actions, the three-dimensional entity can become part of an interactive experience.
The application details a system that can detect an orientation of a handheld device as well as a voice command by the operator of that handheld device. From there, the system can select a visual effect from a plurality of options, based orientation of that handheld device and the voice command. The system then activates at least one light to illuminate the desired Pepper's Ghost effect, as well as controlling show elements or props on stage to correspond to the selected visual effect.
One can imagine a wide variety of applications. A guest with one of Universal's interactive Wizarding World wands could cast spells that trigger reactions from animated hologram-style targets, such as a wizard or a Fantastic Beast, rather than the relatively simple physical targets now used throughout the Harry Potter theme park lands. Or Universal could create more convincing three-dimensional interactive video games for future Super Nintendo World attractions.
Here is the complete patent filing: Interactive Pepper's Ghost Effect System [USPTO]
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