Virtual Reality, just one of Imagineering’s many story telling tools

This article should really be titled ‘Walt Disney Imagineering builds Star Trek Holodeck and refuses to share it with anybody.’ For a few years now WDI has used a Digital Immersive Showroom (aka The DISH) to assist in developing attractions, buildings, and even whole lands to make sure all the story details are right even before the first coat of paint is applied.

The DISH involves ultra high definition display walls combined with high precision motion capture systems and a system of goggles you wear to give you an overlay effect on the environment. Haptic feedback, markup and notation is also possible.

If you listen carefully, you can hear Imagineer Dr. Mark Mine mention that The DISH uses CAVE technology. That is the same technology that 12+ years ago Tony Baxter was rumored to be developing a new type of theme park with a virtual reality holodeck at its core. Alas, the technology wasn’t quite there yet at the turn of the millennium. I wonder if WDI considers it there now. It looks like it as Mine is now the head of the Creative Technology Group, charged with creating more uses for these technologies.

If you look at this video you can see the practical applications for simulation testing. Indeed WDI works with a number of military scale simulation technologies similar to The DISH and Central Florida is the center of the simulation industry. Can you conceive of an attraction that would use this technology to tell a story and complete the ride experience?

Anyone who wants to work for Walt Disney Imagineering could do worse that follow Mark Mine’s path. In 1997 he published a dissertation on what it means to work in a virtual world. “Exploiting Proprioception in Virtual-Environment Interaction” is not lite reading, to say the least, but it is a fascinating look at the state of the art 15 years ago.

More about Mark Mine:

Mark Mine is Director of Technical Concept Design at Walt Disney Imagineering and the head of WDI’s new Creative Technology Group. The Creative Technology Group’s expertise in virtual reality and computer graphics has been applied to many projects including the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Toy Story Mania, and the new Radiator Springs Racers at Disney’s California Adventure. Prior to working at Disney, Mark was a system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California working on the Voyager Missions to the outer planets. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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