Amid consistent metaverse hype in the news and across social media, companies across various sectors are starting to contemplate their potential role in whatever the metaverse will become. The travel and tourism industry is no exception. Companies in this sector have started investing in emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies will bring the industry closer to the metaverse, providing a potential venue for people to meet, plan trips together, and visit different sites in a virtual environment.
Metaverse jobs are booming
Metaverse hype is exemplified by the explosion of jobs related to themes like AR and VR. GlobalData’s jobs trends database shows that hiring within these themes has increased by 218% since January 2021. Looking at the tourism industry specifically, the company with the greatest interest in hiring for AR and VR in the first quarter of 2022 was The Walt Disney Company. Disney is one of the world’s leading media giants, and operates a string of successful theme parks—and even this company has not been exempt from getting wrapped up in the metaverse hype. During a conference call to discuss the company’s 2022 first-quarter financial results, CEO Bob Chapek said that the metaverse was at the forefront and has since appointed an executive to oversee the company’s metaverse strategy.
Disney’s virtual world simulator
Notably, Disney has shown further interest in the metaverse with its new patent, which was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in early 2022. This patent outlines the company’s plans to create a real-world theme park ride where users will experience a 3D virtual world, using simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). This technique will be used to map park visitors’ surroundings as they move through the real world, while creating 3D projection-based imagery. Guests will be able to see holograms, projected onto 3D objects of their favorite Disney stars, artwork, or information, creating a highly immersive but personalized experience.
Racing ahead of the metaverse competition
Using AR and VR to create immersive theme parks is not a new concept and has been used in other theme parks. When guests ride Mario Karts: Koopa’s Challenge at Super Nintendo World, while sitting in a kart and wearing an AR headset, Mario Kart-style racing is brought to life. The headset enables users to race through familiar tracks and throw the iconic shells at opponents, as it displays animated characters that all play out in a physical setting.
However, Disney has proven that it wants to be one step ahead of its competitors. Disney’s patent notes that no external hardware is required to use the simulator. Instead, its simulator uses multiple projectors that project a high rate of images per second to create the 3D image. Guests would no longer have to wear clunky headsets to experience AR, creating a more immersive experience that is more akin to the metaverse.
Storytelling taken to the next level
Disney is known for its storytelling ability, with its successful film studio and streaming platform. However, the metaverse represents a unique opportunity to take this one step further, utilizing technology to bridge the fictional world with reality. For example, if the technology described in the patent is created, the company will no longer need to hire actors to play the role of Disney characters at its theme parks. Not only would this be more cost-effective for the company in the long term, but it would also create an even more realistic experience for guests where they can interact directly with the characters themselves.