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Disney patent may hint at potential in-park Star Wars, Marvel game

The Walt Disney Co. may be looking into how to give theme park visitors powers, much like "the Force" in Star Wars or the various powers possessed by Marvel superheroes.

A new patent published with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, dubbed "Location-based Experience with Interactive Merchandise," aims to use various toys like gloves, and gestures to control environmental factors such as projections, holograms and displays with virtual adversaries. The patent says the technology is developed with the background Disney acquired from past in-park games like Disney's Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which uses cards guests receive to interact with displays around the park; and Disney's Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, which used mobile devices given to guests to make elements of the environment move and interact with them.

One image used in this new patent shows a figure with gloves pointed at another figure, which appears to have been affected by the first user's gestures. This image hints at powers popularized in Marvel superheroes, to be used to interact with an in-game character.

Disney is looking into technology where toys like gloves could be used in a game experience — potentially in theme parks.

Here's the patent's description on that image:

"A game player is wearing a specific pair of gloves that are associated with the "freezing" magic powers. When the game player makes a predefined gesture (in this example, pointing all their fingers at a target) a stream of ice particles is shown to be directed along the pointing direction of the game player." (The patent says the target could be shown encased in ice, as if the player's powers froze the character target.)

There's no mention on if the patent could be used for Star Wars or Marvel games, but the reference to the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Kim Possible games show Disney may be looking at another version. Those games, which were included in the price of admission, allowed guests to have an activity that encouraged them to take in the themed environments of the theme park they were visiting — instead of just rushing to rides or shows.

Disney's all-in strategy with the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2019 could be the opener the theme park needs to make a Star Wars version of the game. That new area is expected to simulate having guests on an actual outer planet in the Star Wars universe where they can interact with locals and impact the story of the area.

If this game is retrofitted to that Star Wars land, it could allow guests to play roles of people who are "Force sensitive" — in other words, having the ability to feel and use the Force — and have them move or manipulate the Star Wars environment with gloves they may be given.

Disney executives were not immediately available for comment.

Disney patents are not guaranteed to become reality, but they give insight into what the theme park giant may be researching to enhance the in-park experience. Any new rides, shows or activities at the parks provide more buzz for the region's $60 billion tourism industry, which attracts 68 million visitors each year, and can lead to more visitation and economic impact.

DREW ATIENZA, FX PRODUCTION SERVICES LLC.