Patent from Universal Could Gamify Theme Parks and Possibly Be for Pokémon Attractions

A recent patent from Universal seems to describe a new type of interactive game that not only adds interactive features to a theme park, but also incorporates the collecting and trading of physical objects. These collectible objects can even be used to redeem other prizes, including Express Passes, according to the patent.

Could this new technology be used in Super Nintendo World, or even for Pokémon areas of Universal Parks around the world, or was this concept drawn up to add interactive functionality to all aspects of their parks?

Let’s dive into the “Interactive Token System” patent to see what Universal may be cooking up. (See the video below for my first reaction to reading the patent, or continue below for a full breakdown of the technology.)

Submitted by Universal in June of last year and published just last month, the “Interactive Token System” patent describes an interactive system that allows guests to collect souvenir coins or tokens, and store them in some sort of wearable device. They can then use these tokens to access special attractions, battle against other guests in interactive games, and more.

Since the tokens are physical objects, which can be purchased or earned through various means, the document also describes how guests could trade tokens between each other. This would mean that the system would not only act as an interactive game within a theme park, but also function like pin trading and souvenir collecting as well.

Image showing a theme park using an interactive system, Image: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

According to the patent, the coins themselves could represent specific characters, or even different areas of the theme park itself. Each guest may collect certain coins because they like a certain type of character, while others may be more interested in collecting all of the interactive coins that represent each area of the park.

The interactive token system includes collectible smart tokens that may be associated with different rides, different characters, and/or different narrative sections of the amusement park, providing an interactive accompaniment to a guest’s itinerary within the park.

It describes how some tokens “may be considered to be rare or associated with special achievements.” Rare tokens may also be used “as part of interactive experiences within the amusement park to unlock access to restricted areas.”

The coins themselves would display an image or an animation on the front, utilizing some sort of small screen. Using this method, even though coins could functionally all be of the same shape and size, what is displayed on them would differ. (Although, it does mention later on in the text that there could be different size tokens that serve different functions.)

Accordingly, each interactive token may have different characteristics that encourage collection for guests who enjoy having souvenirs. The interactive token includes an onboard display that permits the guests and any observers to review an interactive token collection for trading or interactive uses.

The coins can be held in a wearable device that the guest carries around with them throughout the theme park. The wearable item would be capable of communicating with each of the coins that are placed into specific slots on the device.

Placing a coin onto your wearable device would log that coin into the device’s database, so you can see that you have already earned it, even after the coin is physically removed. The device may also include a screen of its own, and/or interactive controls.

The wearable device may also include a device display that displays token information related to the engaged tokens as well as onboard lights or other special effect devices. The wearable device may include straps or other attachment features that may be detachable or reconfigurable so that the wearable device may be worn in a manner preferred by the guest (e.g., over the shoulder, as a bracelet, or as a necklace).

Interactive kiosk patent image, showing slots for coins and interactive display

Another aspect of the system would be kiosk stations. Located around an area of a theme park, or throughout the entire park, these kiosks would allow guests to insert one of their coins to activate features. The patent describes multiple things these kiosks could do, but one in particular is games that guests could play by themselves, or even compete in battles with one another.

At each station, a guest can remove an interactive token from the wearable holder and insert the interactive token into a slot of the station to unlock games or retail experiences. The interactive token stations may also facilitate upgrading or unlocking of hidden features of an individual interactive token.

Depending on the character that your coin represents, or what type of coin you are using, a specific game may be loaded at the station. The patent describes how the character on a coin may be the player’s avatar used on screen in the game.

In one example, two players could each insert one of their coins to battle one another. The winner would receive updated score information, or rewards they have earned, written into the data for their coin before removing it from the station.

Official partnership was announced between the two companies, Image: Universal Studios Japan

So far, we’ve talked about all of the possible functionality of this patent, as presented in the public document, but it’s not hard to imagine how this technology could be utilized for an interactive Pokémon game at the parks.

Universal Studios Japan recently announced a partnership with The Pokémon Company, to bring multiple projects into the park in the coming years. While they have not announced anything beyond a parade for this year, they promise more experiences and attractions will be introduced for the future.

Pokédex device, Image: The Pokémon Company

A system that allows you to collect, trade, and even battle character-based items within a theme park could possibly be used for a Pokémon type experience. The device described could be a theme park variation of the Pokédex, which would explain why it stores a list of your complete collection.

Even the round coin-shaped tokens could display a PokéBall image initially, but then reveal your Pokémon on its small screen after you’ve captured it. The interactive stations around the area, as described in the patent—which allow for retail opportunities and upgrades to your collection—could represent Pokémon Centers, PokéMarts, and Gyms.

Interactive activity patent image

Getting back to the patent itself, more examples of ways the technology could be utilized within a theme park setting are included. Earning rewards from collecting tokens or winning battles could possibly get the user physical rewards, like a food item from a restaurant, or even earn them an Express Pass to an attraction.

The wearable devices themselves could also contain sensors that recognize the user’s movement, including an accelerometer. In one example given, guests could use their wearable device as a controller itself. The example image has them controlling a flying drone, but it could instead control animatronic figures or other real-world objects, instead of, or in addition to, screen-based avatars.

Using a TapuTapu wristband to activate effects at Volcano Bay, Photo: Universal Orlando

Other interactive features are similar to Super Nintendo World’s Power-Up Bands, or Volcano Bay’s TapuTapu wristbands. The patent describes how you could use your device to trigger certain effects in the theme park, and depending on which tokens you have, or how many points you have accumulated, the effect may be different.

In one example, the special effect is a water spray effect. If the interactive token has a high point total, the spray may be larger than for interactive tokens with lower point totals… In another example, [if] the interactive token is a villain character, a smoke or fire effect may be activated. If the interactive token is hero character, a bubble or light special effect may be activated.

Could this interactive system be for Pokémon in the parks? Image: The Pokémon Company

As always, I want to note that just because Universal patents a specific technology does not mean they intend to use it. And while I do believe it is possible that an interactive theme park system like this could be used in a Pokemon or Super Nintendo World type area, there is nothing making that claim within the patent itself.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments, and check out today’s video where we’re digging deeper into this patent, for more details. You can also learn more about possible rumored Pokemon rides at the Universal Studios parks around the world in our latest article, or in the video below.

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