When it comes to theme park attractions, competition is not the norm, but Universal City Studios LLC’s recent patent application is looking to put riders at odds by developing controllable multi-person vehicles for racing-themed attractions that could very well relate to a much-anticipated Mario Kart attraction.
The patent application published today, “Multi-Person Ride Vehicles,” is centered around the concept of racing experiences where guests would have a number of control options for their vehicles, allowing the choices of multiple vehicle riders to influence the outcome of their race experience. The patent describes,
For example, one or more passengers of the multi-passenger ride vehicle may actively control various user input devices of the multi-passenger ride vehicle, such as steering wheels, joysticks, gas pedals, brake pedals, buttons, levers, switches, touch-screen displays, and the like. The user input devices may generate feedback relating to movement of the multi-passenger ride vehicle (e.g., speed, acceleration, deceleration, direction, and/or orientation), feedback relating to rewards in the interactive ride, feedback relating to obstacles in the interactive ride, feedback relating to other multi-passenger ride vehicles or other objects in the interactive ride, or a combination thereof based on input from the one or more passengers. The feedback generated by the user input devices may be used to control features or operations of the multi-passenger ride vehicle such as movement of the multi-passenger ride vehicle, obtaining rewards, avoiding obstacles, and/or engaging with other multi-passenger ride vehicles and/or objects in the interactive ride.
While passengers controlling a ride vehicle in a competitive race setting sounds like a fun idea for the one behind the wheel, what about the other passengers along for the ride? The patent addresses this in a couple of ways. First, there can be more controllable features on the vehicle than just steering — acceleration and feedback relating to rewards and obstacles are all mentioned — giving each rider a specific task. Second, when it comes to steering the vehicle, multiple guests can participate in a sort of cooperative steering where two riders simultaneously steer and their path is determined using both of their controls:
That is, two passengers may each control a user input device that generates the same type of feedback (e.g., feedback relating to the same operation), and feedback from the two user input devices may be used to cooperatively control the operation. For example, two passengers may each control a steering wheel, and a cooperative aggregate from the control of the two steering wheels may determine the steering or vehicle path of the multi-passenger vehicle.
Certain versions of this system would have the riders making choices between a number of set paths in a “drive-by-wire” system, while other variations would allow guests free control over the movement in a more open race environment. Ride vehicles could travel the same course at the same time, beginning at different locations and racing directly against each other, or have their starts spaced out to avoid collisions and would presumably be racing for the “best time” on the course. Winners might also be determined by the avoidance of physical/virtual obstacles and the collection of physical/virtual rewards. The attraction could also be created with fail-safes to minimize collisions if vehicles are straying too close to each other or course boundaries and obstacles.
The vehicles could also include projectors or windshields with a heads-up displays. As passengers travel over virtual rewards, those same rewards would appear on their windshield to notify them. Not only that, but obtaining certain rewards could “unlock” certain vehicle functions. The patent application includes the example of “armor” that would protect the vehicle from virtual obstacles.
Those obstacles might not just be from the course, either. Riders may be able to control their own projector which could send virtual obstacles toward opposing vehicles; those obstacles would appear on the opposing riders’ heads-up displays.
Scores could be based not only on who finish first, but also on which rewards were collected and obstacles avoided, with even indiviual riders receiving a personal score for their proficiency with their related task, such as steering or acceleration.
While Universal does have the Fast & Furious franchise to play with, this race ride patent strongly hints at a Mario Kart concept. For those unfamiliar, here is an example of the video game:
Your character races against others in a go-kart, avoiding course obstacles such as banana peels and attaining course rewards such as driving over arrows to provide a speed-bonus. You and your opponents collect weapons such as turtle shells that you can fire at each other, or banana peels you can drop in front of a driver following behind you. A mixture of driving skills, rewards collecting, and weapon use determines who finishes first.
Now, here is how it would play out if this patent were applied:
You and your fellow riders each choose a position related to a task — one of you at the wheel, one of you controlling the gas pedal, one of you activating rewards you drive over, and one of you aiming and firing projected obstacles. As you race your opponents, you use driving skills or path choices to pass them. As you drive over rewards such as virtual mushrooms, you gain an armor bonus that you can choose to activate at any time. This bonus will protect you from the turtle shells fired at you or banana peels left by other drivers. As you pick up these virtual weapons, you aim and fire them at other drivers, with an image of the obstacle showing up in their windshield display.
Although ground was broken last year on Universal Studios Japan’s Super Nintendo World and it has been suggested that a Mario Kart attraction would be a track ride involving augmented reality glasses, it is not implausible for different versions of the ride to implement this new technology.
As always, the existence of an application does not guarantee a patent’s approval, and an approved patent does not guarantee the associated technology’s use. This could be a plan that never comes to a fruition, and it is often best to avoid jumping to conclusions. With question circulating about a Mario Kart attraction and its presence in Universal Orlando’s Super Nintendo World, however, it doesn’t require giant leaps of imagination to see where this technology could apply.