Originally published in Theme Park Tourist By Amanda Kondolojy, Friday, November 4, 2016 07:14
Earlier this week, Universal Orlando Resort revealed some exciting information about its new not-a-water-park water park Volcano Bay. One of the resort’s most exciting revelations was of the park’s final attraction: the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This new “water coaster” attraction will allow guests to board custom-designed canoe-shaped vehicles that will make use of linear induction motor technology that can propel riders up hills, blast them through waterfalls, and plunge them down into darkness. This new system is especially exciting, as it doesn’t require the use of gravity for forward propulsion, which means riders don’t have to ascend a giant stair tower to get to the ride!
However, while the news about the final ride at Volcano Bay certainly is very exciting, Universal also made another big announcement this week, confirming something about this upcoming park we long expected: a queue-less line system that uses wearable technology is coming to Universal Orlando, and will be making its debut at Volcano Bay in the summer of 2017. Here’s everything we know about this new system thus far.
Meet Universal Orlando Resort’s TapuTapu
Universal has previously mentioned that one of their goals for Volcano Bay is to create a park with no queue lines whatsoever, and to accomplish this goal they have confirmed that they will be using a new system known as TapuTapu. The cornerstone of this system is a wearable wristband that allows guests to virtually wait for an attraction without ever setting foot in an actual queue. However, if you think TapuTapu is just a copy of Walt Disney World’s MyMagic+, you’d only be half right.
While the wearable angle does seem a lot like what Walt Disney World guests have been using for several years now, the actual TapuTapu system will actually work more like legacy FastPass in practice, as guests will need to “tap in” to an attraction in order to save their spot in a virtual line and then return to that attraction later when it is time to ride. And also like legacy FastPass, guests using TapuTapu can only wait for one attraction at a time.
Once a guest has tapped in, they will be able to do a number of things during their wait time, including cruising down the lazy river, playing in the kids’ splash area or grabbing a drink. Then, when the wait time is down to 15 minutes, guests’ wristbands will vibrate, letting them know that it is time to head back to the attraction, where they will (in theory) be able to board the ride immediately.
The system is simple on its surface, and looks like it will be an interesting hybrid between Walt Disney World’s current FastPass+ system and the legacy FastPass system still in use at Disneyland. However, some questions remain about how this will work from a practical standpoint. For instance, while it is great that guests won’t have to wait in line for the park’s twelve different slides, all of those guests not in line will still need something to do during this downtime, and even though there are four different pools as well as a play area, when you have a park full of guests who aren’t in line, heading into a packed pool might not sound like the best idea. Universal will either need to severely limit the amount of guests who can visit the park per day to keep crowds (and virtual wait times) manageable, or invest in some in-park entertainment options beyond simply lazy rivers and pools if it is to keep guests happy (and not bored) while they are waiting for attractions.
Though the primary function of TapuTapu will be to facilitate queue-less waiting for attractions, this technology will have another function as well…
This technology can do more than just save you a spot…
One of the most under-utilized features of MagicBands at Walt Disney World is their ability to trigger practical effects in the park. While guests can see their name on It’s A Small World or hear a fun sound when they gain admission to a park, MagicBands don’t really have much of an interactive component, despite these bands using the same RFID technology that makes practical effects at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter possible with the flick of an RFID-enabled wand. However, in a wise move Universal has announced that its TapuTapu project will bring interactivity to a number of places around Volcano Bay. .
Guests at the park will be able to use their band to activate a number of special effects, including firing of water cannons at fellow guests on the Kopiko Wai Winding River ride, controlling water spurts in Tot Tiki Reef and even lighting up images within the park’s iconic volcano structure as well.
OK, but how do I get my hands on TapuTapu?
Another big difference between Walt Disney World’s MagicBands and Universal Orlando Resort’s forthcoming TapuTapu will be how the parks get these wearable objects to guests. While Walt Disney World encourages resort guests to order their MagicBands in advance (and non-resort guests can purchase and link MagicBands at any time), guests at Volcano Bay will only have one option: they will need to grab a TapuTapu device when they enter the park. Though unconfirmed, it seems likely that these TapuTapu are required for admission and to experience attractions, which could be why Universal is trying to make the distribution process as simple as possible so that they can ensure every guest has their TapuTapu device ready before a day at the park. And fortunately, it looks like this device will be completely free for guests.
Though Universal’s Volcano Bay isn’t projected to open until summer 2017, tickets will go on sale for the this new park on November 15. Currently we do not know how much tickets will cost or how Universal will handle annual passholders, but we should hopefully know more in the very near future.
Are you excited to check out Volcano Bay?
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