The House of Mouse could be on its way to the Metaverse

Photo: Roberto Machado Noa (Getty Images)

The metaverse may be going to a Disney theme park near you.

Disney received approval for a patent on a “virtual-world simulator” shortly before the new year, according to a recently surfaced filing with the US Patent Office. The technology would be used to project 3D images onto real-world objects to create interactive guest experiences in the parks without the need for a wearable headset or mobile device. If you’re not familiar, we call that kind of bridge between the physical world and the virtual world the metaverse, or Silicon Valley’s latest buzzword.

Disney is already using augmented reality technology for large-scale entertainment in its theme parks, such as using projection mapping to bring the cast of characters to life on store windows, waterfalls and other real-world structures. But this new technology would be on a significantly different scale: It would track individual park visitors to personalize the projections they see onto nearby objects and walls. For example, a family walking past a shop window may see Mickey Mouse greeting them as they pass by.

If the House of Mouse takes the metaverse into its parks, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Disney officials told the Los Angeles Times that the company has no immediate plans to use the virtual world simulator technology described in its patent.

“We’re excited about the possibilities related to this type of technology,” a Disney spokesperson told the outlet, adding that “there are currently no plans to introduce this technology in an upcoming experience.” The spokesperson also emphasized that Disney “files hundreds of patents every year as we research technology development.”

However, like Insider points out that including the metaverse in its theme parks would certainly fit Disney’s ambitious goal of telling stories through a “three-dimensional canvas.” CEO Bob Chapek detailed this view during Disney’s fourth quarter earnings call:

“Our efforts to date are just a foretaste of a time when we can connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, enabling storytelling without boundaries in our very own Disney metaverse,” Chapek said.

It’s worth noting that big companies like Disney have a history of obtaining patents to prevent competitors from getting their first, which may very well be the case here.

“It’s possible they’ll never use it, but I have a feeling this is something they’re going to commercialize to a great extent,” Ed Khalili, a patent attorney at Founders Legal, said in an interview with the LA Times.

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