Original article at InPark Magazine
Over the past two years, the team at Dynamic Attractions could be found piling mounds of dirt outside their Orlando Development Center offices, then driving over and around them in peculiar-looking vehicles. Inside, in stealth mode, engineers, creatives and tech experts tinkered with military-grade technologies, determined to adapt them for theme park rides.
On November 14, 2017, from the Dynamic Attractions booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, the company unveiled the result: the “Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride.” It incorporates a trio of systems to deliver new ways to create and experience rides, and to inspire designers, producers and operators to climb to new heights of creative innovation.
“Show programming with concrete”
The Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride is a vehicle-based, attraction ride system having neither tracks nor rails, available with four or six seats per vehicle. Riders will be in free-roaming, ATV-like vehicles that can climb up and down steep barriers, traverse wet or dry ground indoors or out; they can revel (safely) in a variety of hair-raising experiences and thrills – such as simulated collisions and near-misses with other objects that can include animatronic figures, animals, aliens or even other guest vehicles.
Dynamic Attractions sees this as a creative team’s dream lineup of products with which to create a new genre of attractions and guest experiences.
The technology allows guests to have a more authentic physical experience, delivering sensations that no longer need to be simulated. “If you want your guests to feel like they’re going down a set of stairs, then you just build a set of stairs,” said George Walker, Senior Vice President, Creative Services. “You are essentially show programming with concrete. In my experience, this industry has never really had an attraction that can do something that forreal.”
Smart and safe tech
Multiple technology advances are what made the Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride a reality, according to Mike Haimson, Vice President, Technology Development, who said, “Our system allows for the cars to wander through an arena, trackless, without unwanted contact with another object. Several vehicles might be in the same space at the same time, like bumper cars without any bumping. We have 100 percent control over the environment, so we can make riders feel as if they’re out of control.” Haimson noted that the ride system includes redundant safety systems developed to meet high industry standards.
“The vehicles also have suspension systems and tire treads that allow them to drive over boulders and other obstacles such as water, debris and sticks,” Haimson said. “Our system is smart enough to determine what belongs in the attraction and what does not.”
The on-board audio system can provide another level of anticipation. Much like a smart vehicle, the vehicle can be programmed to issue warnings as, for example, the attraction path approaches a mountainside cliff. Guests might hear a voice say, “Alert, cliff ahead” while the ride activates a safety device. This illustrates how the Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride is poised to allow entirely new types of experiences – to cover new dark ride terrain, so to speak – by narrowing the gap between simulation and reality. “There are lots of vehicles in the world that do dangerous things, like race cars that go fast and ATVs that climb up the sides of mountains,” Walker says. “Most people don’t get to experience those sensations. The Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride allows the average guest of almost any age who can fit in the seat to experience something rather precarious through a system that is safe, and get the illusion of extreme excitement in way that has never been possible in the theme park world before.”
Hitting the road
Typically, rain, fog and other water features in dark ride environments can interfere with trackless technology, points out Cindy Emerick, Vice President, Business Development. But not so for this product, she explains. “With our ultra-wide-band, military-grade, radio frequency technology, these features no longer affect communication,” she said. “Creative people can now deliver whatever environmental preferences they dream of.”
Emerick further noted that the vehicles have a significant range of variable speed, which enables programming bursts of acceleration into the experience. “Action will feel more intense. Riders will feel the air hitting them because they will actually be moving fast and feeling the motion from the terrain of the road. The beauty of this family of vehicles is that it delivers a new anticipation level to dark ride attractions, there isn’t a track or path visible to the riders. They will not be able to guess the next maneuver – a true adventure!”
“We’re bringing an untethered ride to market. We believe this is a game-changer for themed entertainment and that Dynamic has set a new benchmark for innovation,” said Guy Nelson, Dynamic’s CEO. “The word ‘can’t’ is not in Dynamic’s vocabulary. Integrating new navigational and vehicle production technologies with a road car like fitand-finish, to work affordably in the theme park industry was a huge challenge – but our motto is anything you dream, we can build. This is daunting at times, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Options abound in this new product, beyond current concepts of theming,” said Walker. “My creative colleagues in the industry will have virtually no limits in creating their own ideas and environments to design. I’m very excited about the conversations we’re having around the Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride, and all of our ride systems. Dynamic’s family of dark rides has something to help realize all visions and concepts. ”
You’ve got options
Dynamic continues to offer many options including more traditional dark ride systems that the company has worked to endow with greater capabilities, using some of the same technology advances that power the Dynamic All-Terrain Dark Ride. These include the “Dynamic Motion Dark Ride” and “Dynamic Classic Dark Ride.”
The Dynamic Motion Dark Ride, an omni-directional vehicle, combines free roaming capabilities with a motion base. This is positioned as ideal for a story that doesn’t involve a vehicle from the “car” family. For example, “If the story is about a boat, spaceship, or riding on top of a spider, the Dynamic Motion Dark Ride is the answer,” said Walker. “The motion range of the Dynamic Motion Dark Ride would mimic any desired mode of transportation as desired by creative.”
One option of the Dynamic Motion Dark Ride uses a unique wheel configuration that gives it what Haimson describes as an unprecedented range of trackless freedom. “The system can move forward, back, diagonal,
and left and right seamlessly,” said Haimson. “It has the ability to drift and to do end-over-end motions, and incredibly complex motion paths that you couldn’t otherwise simulate.”
For its part, the Dynamic Classic Dark Ride is packed with upgrades from more traditional tracked and trackless vehicles. “It doesn’t require a super-flat floor, it has more powerful motors to deliver more variable speeds, it’s still capable of 360-degree rotation, and it has the ability to be a true autonomous attraction,” Emerick said, explaining how it is a step up from tracked vehicles.