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Disney innovates to create Fireworks for the blind

Nearly every night at a Disney theme park ends with a magical fireworks spectacular. It’s a signature experience that Disney provides to guests that sets it apart from the competition. But what if those guests are blind or visually impaired? A Disney Research Lab in Zurich has developed a new technology that might give them a tactile firework show so they can share in the signature experience.

According to the Disney research lab report, “Tactile effects are created using directable water jets that spray onto the rear of a flexible screen, with different nozzles for different firework effects. Our approach is low-cost and scales well, and allows for dynamic tactile effects to be rendered with high spatial resolution. A user study demonstrated that the tactile effects are meaningful analogs to the visual fireworks that they represent, with sighted users able to label the correct correspondence of tactile-to-visual effects by a large margin over chance. Beyond the specific application, the technology represents a novel and cost-effective approach for making large scalable tactile displays, with the potential for wider use.”

Many guests may not realize that Walt Disney Imagineering is one of the world’s leading innovators in pyrotechnics. For instance, when they needed a new launch system in France to comply with strict noise levels, WDI came up with an air-launch solution that worked. The system debuted in 2004 at Disneyland Resort in California as part of the “Disney’s Imagine — A Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks show. Disney actually donated the license for the quieter launch to a non-profit so the entire pyrotechnics industry could benefit.

Continued innovation is one of the ways Disney makes sure’s it’s fireworks spectaculars are best in the industry. Who knows if this feeling fireworks will ever show up in the parks, but some variation of it might show up and surprise and delight you.