Earlier this year, Universal Orlando Resort launched a new mobile app entitled “Universal ScreenPlay”. Unlike most of the theme park apps out there on the market (including the wonderful one our website offers), this app is not designed to help and assist your vacation planning but to enhance your vacation itself.
The app’s three many features rely heavily on augmented reality. For those of you not-so techno-savvy readers, Merriam-Webster defines ‘augmented reality’ as:
“an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera)”
Let me break it down for you in Disney terms. Have you ever been inside the LEGO Store in Downtown Disney? If you stand in front of video kiosks there and display any LEGO box, it will magically bring to life an actual-size animated version of that set on the screen, and when you turn the box, the set moves in tandem.
That’s augmented reality!
The first half of the app implements this technology in the “Scan” mode. At the time of this blog posting, it can only be used on the long construction wall adjacent to the Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion in the Studios park. This may cause future confusion, because while other construction sites in the park have identical walls with movie posters, they do not contain the Universal ScreenPlay icon and thus are not enabled for the game.
Here’s how it works: Hold up your phone to any of the posters. The app will scan it and ask you a trivia question or poll related to the film. If you answer correctly, it will show you a clip from that specific movie and earn you points that will unlock additional clip art and borders for the “Virtual Postcard” mode.
This is fun and educational at times (Who knew Walter Matthau’s real last name was Matuschanskayasky?) but my favorite part is the larger billboards. Hold your phone up to one of the posters of attractions from Universal’s past and present, and the app will open up a virtual window into that attraction’s world, displaying a quick 3D scene that pops off the wall. Words cannot describe the awesomeness of this feature. With the ability to walk around the 3D display, it can create some fun and creative photo ops. Plus you’ll be laughing at yourself the first time you jump because Jaws tried to smash through your phone and bite your head off.
Finally, as mentioned, before the other half of the app is creating “Virtual Postcards”. This allows you to insert Universal characters and themed borders immediately in the moment as you take photos throughout the day- sorta like instant Photopass on the go!
Here are some of my masterpieces from my day in the park earlier this week:
My Verdict: I really like this app and think it has the potential to be great. The problem is they need to work out the bugs first and make it more user friendly. As you can see from my pictures I took through the app, something is wrong with the colorization not lining up with the actual photo, and this is even more highlighted in contrast against the high def (dare I say “picture perfect”) icons of the characters or scenes popping out of the wall. Also I would like a little more freedom in creating my postcards; like the ability to JUST use a border or some clip art and not both, or being able to insert a character into a picture I’ve previously taken and stored on my phone.
Additionally, I went from one end of the construction wall to the other, scanning each poster, and it took me about forty minutes. I don’t see the average family taking the time out of their vacation to spend an hour in the sun looking at their phone on a barren walkway. I see this more as a hidden gem type of thing, like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Hide a bunch of posters and photo ops around the park, integrating them with the surrounding attractions and atmosphere, and people will be running around looking for that ScreenPlay icon, wondering what’s in store!
All that being said, this is a fantastic use for what otherwise would be a plain, boring construction wall. I mean, what if Disney got its hands on this technology? Instead of the New Fantasyland peep hole into the Mine Train construction…
…what if you could unlock a virtual window and see the Seven Dwarfs building the ride themselves? Or I can TOTALLY see this being the next mini game in the vein of Sorcerers, Pirates Adventure or Agent P, but instead of picking up a device in the park you just download an app to YOUR phone via the park’s Wi-Fi!
In my opinion, this FREE app is worth the download for the animated billboards alone, so head on over to the iTunes App Store or Google Play and check it out on your next visit!