New Interactive Invention Could CHANGE Theme Park Special Effects

Weird technology you might wear on your head, edible robots, and false floor illusions — if you think the theme park experience is advanced now, some new inventions could change your experience FOREVER.

Ollivanders Wand Shop

We’ve been sharing all kinds of details about new technology in the theme parks and patents that show us a glimpse into the future, and now we’ve got another update!

Universal City Studios LLC recently applied for a patent entitled “Interactive Pepper’s Ghost Effect System.”

As the patent application explains, the “interactive Pepper’s Ghost system includes a sensor configured to detect a parameter indicative of an orientation of a handheld device.” In other words, it’s a system that has a sensor that can detect how a device is behind held.

If you’re not familiar with Pepper’s Ghost this is an existing effect utilized famously in The Haunted Mansion ride in the Disney parks.


Pepper’s Ghost basically uses the power of light to create the illusion of a translucent figure that’s standing in the room. What happens is the actual animatronics for the figures (the dancers in the Ballroom scene for the Haunted Mansion, for example) are hidden below the ride vehicles.

They are illuminated periodically by a light. What we actually see when on the ride are the reflections of the animatronics thanks to a piece of glass that actually separates us from the entire scene. This creates the illusion that we’re really looking into a haunted room with dancing ghosts!


But the Universal patent takes things a step further! Universal’s patent application notes that Pepper’s Ghost is an effective illusion but lacks “meaningful audience interaction.” The Pepper’s Ghost effect, in its current iteration, is basically a passive experience.

But guests are now used to experiences that are more interactive (like video games). And even where shows use audience interaction, the current technology can be limiting. So Universal is trying to take things to the next level.


According to the patent application, the system includes a controller that is configured to receive some feedback that is indicative of the orientation of the handheld device being held by a guest. The controller is then configured to control a Pepper’s Ghost “visual effect based on the sensor feedback.”

Basically, Universal has explained that the handheld device could be something like a wand, a key, a cell phone, a sword, or other objects. The orientation of that handheld device would be monitored by the controller (maybe by something like infrared light detection where the handheld device has an infrared light emitter).

Based on the feedback that the controller gets from the sensors (infrared or otherwise), it could then determine the orientation of the handheld device (i.e. where it is being directed or pointed). Based on that orientation and position, the controller can then control a Pepper’s Ghost effect that causes a visual effect to be created (which is meant to look like it was created by the guest using that handheld device).

Universal Orlando

But wait, there’s MORE! In another example, the patent explains that there could also be a microphone incorporated into the mix that would detect the voice audio of the “operator.” In this case, a controller could be set up to receive data that is indicative of the voice audio coming from the operator and then determine a voice command from those available. That controller could also activate a light emitter that would then generate a Pepper’s Ghost effect.

They explain that one voice command may cause a first effect (maybe a light or something to appear) while a second voice command might cause a different effect.

In one of the images included in the patent, Universal seems to display how this technology could be utilized with wands in the parks — specifically listing things like “wand orientation input” and “audio spell input” being tracked with sensors and mics.


The patent goes on to note that it could be used with a toy like a toy cannon which could then simulate shooting confetti, water, or smoke onto a stage that’s behind the transparent screen allowing for the Pepper’s Ghost effect.

There are a lot of possibilities with this technology, some of which are described in detail in the patent application.

While spells can already be cast in the Wizarding World utilizing their special wands, it seems like the company may be looking to make things a little more elaborate or otherwise utilize this interactive technology in other ways in other areas of the park.

Peter Pettigrew Wand

How would you like to see this technology incorporated into the parks? Tell us in the comments!

To learn more about other theme park technology that could change your experience, click here to see about the drones, artificial intelligence, and other mysterious things coming to the Disney parks. And stay tuned for more news!

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What do you think about this tech? Tell us in the comments!

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