We all know how much Universal Studios likes their motion based ride systems. Several attractions utilize some form of motion base technology including Men in Black: Alien Attack, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. But it’s expensive for every vehicle in a ride to contain it’s own motion base. The engineering, maintenance, and per seat cost can be enormous. So what do you do if you want to build a roller coaster type ride experience but also have the unpredictability of a simulator type ride system? What options are there for amusement parks who want to create a ground-breaking attraction but are limited by cost or real estate?
The Universal engineers have recently come up with a motion base track segment. The invention consists of a fixed track roller coaster or dark ride with at least one section of track which can be de-coupled from the main track and rotated in almost any direction- even raising or dropping vertically. Rides such as The Mummy do contain turntables but the movement is only in one degree of freedom- a rotational movement. This new motion base track can not only rotate but pitch back and forth and tip side to side.
“An amusement ride has a track defining a ride vehicle path with a section of the track that can be decoupled from the main track and is subsequently movable on or about up to three axes with between one and six independent degrees of freedom.”
How does it work? The motion base track invention is actually very similar to the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. The track is mounted to six actuators in an arrangement called a six axis or “Stewart Platform.” Fixed to the top of the platform is a ring and pinion gear which enable the track to rotate 360 degrees, both clock and counterclockwise. This entire assembly could then be mounted on another component allowing the entire track to slide back and forth from side to side.
How does this save on space and cost? Cost is saved by only needing one motion base instead of multiple bases for every vehicle. The footprint of the ride can be reduced by reusing portions of the ride path. This can be accomplished by utilizing theme elements on rotatable turntables- first time you pass through a room you see one thing, the second time the tables have rotated 180 degrees and you think you’re in a totally different room when it’s actually one and the same (see the Carousel of Progress).
Or more likely they could have different projection effects. Imagine being in a cylindrical room with video projections being played 360 degrees around you as your coaster cars pivots and spins all around. Next, the motion base tips at a 45 degree angle and your car is released and plunges down a huge drop backwards, followed by a typical roller coaster experience featuring breathtaking drops, helices, and airtime.
In fact, the patent specifically mentions the motion base track could simulate a collapsing bridge or “…may be used to simulate a flying vehicle evading a pursuer…” Could this be a future Harry Potter attraction? A flying car perhaps? The possibilities are endless. What do you think?