The Boy Who Innovated: Universal Files Powerful New Patent for Potter Ride

A new patent filed by Universal may put theme park goers in control of their own destinies.

According to the Orlando Business Journal, Universal has recently filed a patent for a “video game ride” that would “receive respective inputs from one or more riders” on board a vehicle. The report infers that this would be used as part of a video game-like attraction involving magic and alternating outcomes for the company’s extremely popular The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

“Specifically,” the report says, “the patent is aimed at creating a vehicle ‘configured to receive respective inputs from one or more riders via the vehicle interface circuitry, and wherein the respective inputs are related to one or more game features of a game environment; and a game controller configured to receive information from the vehicle interface circuitry related to the respective inputs; and provide instructions to modify the game environment based on at least one of the respective inputs.’

"In certain embodiments, the score input may include input from external sensors that capture player motion, such as wand motion, and provide the motion characteristics as input to a score determination algorithm. If the wand motion is associated with a particular spell that is an effective spell for the game, the player's score may be updated to indicate a successful 'freezing spell' or other spell has been cast," said the patent.

This would be a major win for Comcast, owner of Universal Studios theme park. While new attractions are constantly springing up at various theme parks across the country, the industry is unusually formulaic when it comes to attractions. Ride systems are frequently repurposed for different themes. Of course, Universal has been known to innovate for the Harry Potter IP before. They knocked the ball out of the park when they unveiled Forbidden Journey, the crown jewel of the Wizarding World at Universal Orlando, with a revolutionary ride system, and that helped enhance the material on which the attraction was based.

Of course, an attraction that is altered at the end has been done before. Disney World’s EPCOT Center had the now-defunct Horizons back in 1983, which asked users which future they’d like to experience on a screen in front of them, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror added a randomizer to make each ride experience unique roughly a decade ago. But an attraction that would be this manipulated by user movement and interaction would be a huge building block on that idea, and one that would undoubtedly bring the crowds out in droves.