Cruise Control | Cruising the High-tech Seas (Video)
Is a virtual-reality vacation in your future? Travel-tech innovation is a hot topic… and we’ve got the latest on where it’s headed.
Virtual reality, video mapping, and giant LED screens are bridging the gap in entertainment offering audiences an immersive experience through multimedia.
Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas brought in their Two70° robotic LED screens at the end of 2014. That was just the beginning. Now, nearly the entire fleet has modified versions of these panoramic screens.
These huge “window panels” are over 100 inches across and rotate by robotic arm to complement 3D animations and immerse the audience in live-action events.
According to Daktronics, “the robot display systems were so complex that they were only exceeded by robots on Mars.”
Since then, MSC Cruises’ has also joined the innovation game with MSC Meraviglia. The vessel houses a $22 million theater for Cirque du Soleil shows. This high-cost theater also comes with built-in ceiling tracks where an LED screen glides overhead.
With this downscaled theater seating just over 400 persons, the performers feel like they are on top of you as they hang from the ceiling and bike overhead. This downsizing of the audience, combined with upscaling of technology, brings immersion to a new level.
Not to leave out Disney Cruise Line – Disney Wonder and Disney Magic upgraded their theaters use these same robotic panels but with laser effects!
Remember an IMAX theater being top of tech? Well, Carnival Cruise Line took it to the next level last year with a three-deck cinema AT SEA on Carnival Vista.
Vista’s IMAX screens are recalibrated and monitored daily from Toronto – like all the company’s theaters. But imagine how difficult that is to do with a moving ship! That’s why it makes our list for top tech at sea.
IMAX recently set aside funds to dabble in virtual reality (VR) experiences – some that include VR pods. Carnival has not yet revealed whether the IMAX complex launching on Carnival Horizon next year will have the VR pods, but it is fair to assume that’s where they’re headed.
Did you know on Norwegian Cruise Line you can walk the plank? Norwegian joined the VR club this year with Norwegian Joy hosting a VR rendition of walking the plank at 60 stories high! Joy’s live theater productions go overboard as well – including projections, animations and 3D mapping.
Creating these immersive atmospheres on a moving ship presents challenges of its own. One thing that a number of cruise lines have discovered is that they need to hire more maintenance staff to keep up with the technical advances and to keep them up to standard. The costs are outweighed by the ability to create a backdrop from lasers and screens, rather than hiring the manpower to build and move sets.
So – where is it heading? Well, last year Royal Shakespeare Company brought a CGI Ariel to the stage in new high-tech production of The Tempest. This event boasted 27 projectors hidden within the theater.
Will digital avatars replace live actors? That’s still to be determined.