Given the growth of the AR/VR industry and the ever so powerful entertainment industry (no recession can slow down the need for Entertainment), it is safe to expect that theme park operators will rapidly adopt these technologies.

In order to address the merits of AR vs VR for theme park operators, let’s first assess what has been done so far by the community.

VR coasters: Considering that motion sickness is one of VR’s main issues, I believe that pairing VR with a high speed roller coaster ride is a recipe for disaster. Also, using a VR headset on a ride no longer enables the thrill seekers to share the experience sitting collectively. Let’s face it: VR is (at the moment) an individual experience which then makes it harder for the user to relate with friends and family the thrill component of the ride.

Arena Style VR: This is the next-generation laser tag / paint ball experience (for example work done by VRCade and Zero Latency). Interesting solution, but those who have tried to walk around “blindfolded” with a VR headset will agree that it is not the most intuitive feeling.

So what about AR in theme parks?

AR can be applied in several ways but has 2 main common treads; it’s a group experience and it blends in with the real world by overlaying 2D/3D content in our field of view. How?

For starters, with AR Apps for smartphone and tablets – Examples of this can be found with “The Battle for Cedar Point” app or the work we did with Isle of Wight where we placed 3D dinosaurs in a real live environment. From a hardware perspective, this is minimal investment for the theme park and allows guests to use their own devices.

What about a completely hardware-free user experience? Large-screen AR set-up can be used as digital mirrors where viewers are live captured side by side with AR content. We know a thing or two about this given we have now installed over one hundred of our BroadcastAR system in 40+ countries. Universal Studios Orlando was one of our first clients to understand the power of AR, and that installation has been running for over 3 years.

Now let’s talk about the future for AR which is actually already happening now: AR wearables.

Transparent glasses (think Google Glasses) which allow you to see 2D/3D content overlaid in your own real/live environment without having to look through the lens of a smartphone or tablet. Microsoft is taking a dominant position in this segment with HoloLens and soon enough we'll find out what Magic Leap has in store for us (better be good to justify the 1.4 Billion funding they have received in the last years).

What does AR wearables mean for the theme park community? It means roller coaster rides amplified with digital content yet within a real space surrounding, fun ways to entertain guests whilst waiting in endless lines, practical ways of informing guests of a specific ride (speed, height etc.) and so much more.