SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. knows it can't travel back in time and show guests the enormous creatures of the seas millions of years ago, but that doesn't mean they can't do it in a more tech-savvy way.
It plans to use a new technology platform called "Deep See" that aims to use digital reality technology — like virtual reality headsets — to take guests from the theme parks into the wild with the various animals on Earth. The first dive into this is with the new Kraken coaster upgrade opening next summer that will take guests deep into the depths of the ocean where the mythical creature and other big monsters dominate.
But that's just the beginning, Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park experience design for SeaWorld, told Orlando Business Journal. "This is going to be a platform where we will do multiple digital experiences throughout the park systems. The 'Deep See' construct and idea will allow us to develop ride experiences on coasters, other rides and even allow the meeting and touching of animals digitally. This is what we will be rolling out over the coming years as the technology catches up with our ideas."
Hypothetically, imagine being able to enter a room during a special SeaWorld tour and being equipped with a headset and environment that resembles the Arctic. There guests could learn more about killer whales and maybe even touch a seal cub. But that's just my idea. Morrow said his team already is way ahead on how to merge the new technology into the theme park experience.
"We will have other things opening in 'Deep See' category at other parks and more going into 2018. We have clever things we are doing with our animals and it's with [the help of] digital reality because we can mix real and digital content and get to the animals you can't see inside our parks and break those barriers between our guests and the animals. That's the ultimate goal," he added. "We are into 2020 with our tools and technology, so we already are thinking in the bleeding edge to adapt to the new technology."
Morrow said his team is working with various cutting-edge technology firms worldwide from the U.S., Canada and overseas. Kraken's VR conversion is just one of many that will come to the SeaWorld and Busch Garden theme parks worldwide.
SeaWorld's aggressive adoption of technology to provide new experiences should help the park finally break away from the dark clouds it's been under for years after the Blackfish film criticized how it deals with its killer whales. The company, which has faced struggles financially, has been swift to bring online new attractions such as the Mako coaster that opened this summer.
It's vital for SeaWorld's future to remain aggressive and invest in new attractions regularly to stay fresh and not lose marketshare to Orlando's quick-growing, fast-spending theme park giants Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort.
Orlando, known as the theme park capital of the world, has a $60 billion tourism industry that brings 66 million visitors to the region annually.