New Disney Patents Hint at Bioluminescent Plants in Avatar Attraction

Posted by Sasha Bailyn on Thursday, August 11th, 2016


The site Patentyogi recently uncovered patents from Disney that could hint at what guests have to look forward to in the forthcoming “Pandora – The World of Avatar” attraction. When the movie Avatar was first released, people were enthralled with the fictitious world of Pandora. In the movie, the forest came alive with bioluminescence and plants had a deeper connection to living beings. Audiences wanted to be part of the action; now, thanks to innovations from Disney’s Imagineers and an IP agreement with the film’s producers, it’ll soon be possible.

The director of the film, James Cameron has teamed up with Disney and a creative team of entertainment designers to bring the world of Pandora to life. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, in Orlando, Florida will host the attraction, set to open in 2017. Recent interest has been renewed in the project as more details have come to light from patents on the technology behind the attraction.

Responsive plants are one of the most intriguing elements of the Pandora world. The patents – and the technological underpinnings that will allow Disney to create interactive plants – have entertainment designers and movie buffs alike excited. The plans delineate a technology that will allow user interaction to trigger bioluminescence. When users touch the leaf or stem of the plant, there will be a reaction – whether visual, audio, or something else. Technically, the patents don’t actually state that they’re for Avatar – but the expert speculation suggests that the connections are clear based on the plant references.

Personalization is the main theme surrounding this new technology. While some plants may have the ability to light up, others will have sensors that trigger audio. Perhaps some of the most intriguing technology involves using voice recognition to personalize the experience. Guests may be prompted to state their name when entering the park, creating stored data that the technology of the exhibit can use to later address an individual guest by name.

Voice recognition technology will allow the plants to seem as if they are speaking directly to you, and can carry on a conversation that goes far past knowing your name. Voice recognition will call on recorded voice patterns to identify individual guests. Other technologies include smoke, smells and even water spouts triggered by movement, based on features already in use at other rides. Experience designers are finding way to invoke all the senses through their work on the Avatar attraction.

In addition to interactive capabilities, certain parts of the plant will react differently, creating a unique experience for each guest. Touching a plant in one area might lead to an explosion of light, the floor underfoot shifting into motion, or something completely different. The technology is advanced enough to allow each unit of the exhibit to create a variety of personalized experiences for the guest.

The technology outlined in the patent is called capacitive sensing. The sensing systems are connected to the exhibit via electrodes. In a true stroke of design genius, the system used is modeled after the biology of real plants to carry signals.

The newly released patents still leave a lot to the imagination. So what will the world of Pandora really look like off the silver screen? Guests can expect a multi-dimensional world complete with floating mountains, a serene canoe ride, and a swift journey on a banshee. The Disney recreation of Pandora will include its fair share of models and recreations from the movie, with the floating mountains serving as the centerpiece, but the main attraction of the site will be the interactive capabilities with living organisms. The entire experience is geared towards making guests feel as if they have truly landed on an alien planet.

As experience becomes an integral part of ride design, innovators are challenged to come up with unique ways to stand out. The world of Pandora offers the perfect opportunity for people to feel as if they were transplanted from the park into another world. For entertainment designers, these technologies open up whole new levels of potential development for personalization and interaction within dark rides.

Images for concept art sourced via Wikipedia

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