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Theme parks | 5 ways haptics deepens immersive experiences

The richer the world of a story, the more you feel you are truly stepping inside it. Vince Fung, Director of Product Marketing at Ultrahaptics, talks about how haptics is adding another dimension to immersive experiences.

Theme parks are places of magic and illusion, where we literally step outside our everyday existence and enter extraordinary worlds. But what if, alongside the amazing visual illusions and audio effects experience designers already use, they could create equally incredible tactile illusions?

lady holding sparkler

Haptic technology (often shortened to just “haptics”) is technology that synthesizes tactile sensations. It’s a developing trend in immersive experiences, and includes wearables, peripherals, hand-held devices, and innovative technologies such as Ultrahaptics’ mid-air haptic technology.

Read on for a whistle-stop tour of the five top ways haptics is adding another dimension to immersive experiences.

1. Haptic technology makes magic real

“Then I feel it,” wrote Brian Crecente in Polygon about being “slimed” in The VOID’s Ghostbusters hyperVR experience. “A distinct vibration as its form passes through my chest and then out again through my back.”

Innovative haptic technology (here, a haptic vest) advances experiences beyond the basic, ho-hum effects created by traditional 4D techniques such as fans or heaters. Whether it’s a ghost passing through your body, magic sparkling along your fingers as you cast a spell, or the sensation of a dragon’s breath on your hand, haptic technology creates personalized, dynamic and lifelike tactile effects in immersive experiences.

In other words – it makes magic real.

Crystal Cave gameplay

In Ultrahaptics’ multi-user, walkabout VR experience The Crystal Cave, guests feel tactile sensations as they use their bare hands to absorb elemental powers and complete a magical challenge.

2. Tactile experiences build strong memories

Memories made at a theme park last a lifetime,” wrote Stephanie Sampson of Idaho theme park Silverwood Express last year. Touch, one of our five main senses, is an essential ingredient of lasting memory formation.

Tactile experiences build memories as strongly as visual experiences do, and more strongly than auditory experiences, a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Iowa showed. Multi-sensory experiences build the strongest memories of all.

Watch just how memorable guests found Ultrahaptics’ single-user, walk-up-and-play interactive experience The Energy Chamber at The Magic Castle. They actually feel the energy as it builds, swirls and flows around their fingers.

3. Haptics deepens realism

What did you do the first time you tried VR? Chances are, you reached out to try and touch the virtual objects around you.

Assuring ourselves of the reality (or unreality) of objects through touch is a fundamental human behavior. “Humans are confident in the reality of the world more through touch than any other sense,” haptics expert Professor Vincent Hayward explained to us recently. Even small touches of haptic feedback, used at the right moments in an immersive experience, have a dramatic effect on guests’ sense of presence.

Watch what happened when VR studio Fallen Planet integrated a few simple mid-air haptic effects into VR horror experience Affected: The Visit.

4. Haptics creates emotional connections

No sense is as intimately linked with emotion as touch. Recent research even suggests that we have specialized touch receptors to carry emotional messages to the brain.

Haptic technology deepens emotional connections between visitors and fictional characters. Just listen to Bryan Bishop writing in The Verge about the haptics in Disney’s World of Avatar ride: “I could hear my Banshee’s belabored breathing as it calmed down, but I could also feel it…[it] bonds you to the “creature” and makes the illusion come alive in a totally unique way.”

Virtual human hand touching

5. Haptic technology is a rich resource for immersive storytellers

Last year, Jessica Clark wrote in online magazine Immerse about the rise of haptic storytelling.

Given the connections between touch and emotion, it’s not surprising that who touches who and who touches what have always been vital patterns in storytelling. Now, though, haptic technology makes it possible to incorporate the direct experience of touch (as opposed to mere depictions of it) into immersive experiences.

That’s haptic storytelling – and it’s coming to a theme park near you soon.

Digital Posters

Haptics can be used in brand storytelling not just within rides and experiences but also in the themed environments that surround them. Combine motion tracking, mid-air haptics and digital signage to create interactive queuing experiences and mini-games.

About Ultrahaptics

Ultrahaptics’ immersive and innovative haptic technology uses ultrasound to create a wide variety of tactile effects in mid-air. No hand-held devices, no gloves, and no wearables are needed.

Our haptic technology is particularly well-suited to creating magical sensations in immersive experiences, such as lightning, fireballs, ghosts, clouds, bubbles, and force fields. Haptic modules that deliver dynamically reconfigurable haptic effects can be easily added to location-based AR/VR/XR experiences, dark rides, 4D theatres, and digital signage.

To discover more about our technology and its applications in location-based entertainment, download our whitepaper.

Vince Fung is Director, Product Marketing at Ultrahaptics, the world’s leading mid-air haptics company, where he oversees marketing for North America and is also responsible for the location-based entertainment sector. He can be contacted here.

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