Experience Radar: Phantom Peak Heads To The US And Disney Creates AI Task Force

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to the latest Experience Radar, where we’re learning how to fight like a Samurai in Kyoto, being chilled to the marrow at Terror Roulette in Chicago, and discovering how VR is helping to rehabilitate kids in Sheffield.

1. Warrior Experiences Are Heightening Travel

Headline and above image; Photography by Vinicius Amnx Amano; Lofoten Islands, Black-Tomato

In a bid to deliver adventurers ever more bespoke experiences, travel companies are moving beyond traditional package tours and giving people the chance to step back in time and live like a Samurai or Viking warrior for the day. Luxury travel firm Black Tomato is currently offering experiences to the Lofoten Islands – a Norwegian archipelago – that include a day in the Viking settlement of Borg. Once on terra firma, travellers will be tasked with taking part in various challenges, including archery, axe throwing and rowing a 78-foot longboat, to see if they’ve got what it takes to be a modern-day Viking. Wannabe heroes will be rewarded for their Herculean efforts with an “authentic Viking feast”.

Travellers will also be tasked with having to fish for their own supper in the village of Henningsvær. In Japan, luxury travel firm Scott Dunn includes a visit to a Samurai school on some of its itineraries. At the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum you’ll be trained by a Samurai master. Donning a hakama, students will be taught how to fight with a sword and how to use a ninja blowgun. They’ll also have the chance to cut through a tatami mat soaked in water (to give it the same consistency as a human neck) with an ancient sword. The 10-night Viking adventure doesn’t come cheap, at £9,990 a head, but there’s a growing market for these unique travel experiences that offer more than standard sight-seeing.

2. Phantom Peak Heads To The US

Phantom Peak

Part immersive theatre, part escape room, part real-life TV series, popular London attraction Phantom Peak – where the WXO Summit was held in June – is due to open a sister site in the US as part of a bold expansion plan that includes five new locations. As reported by BlooLoop, Phantom Peak bills itself as “the world’s first fully immersive open-world adventure”. Set across 30,000-square-foot in a Wild West-themed town, the venue is the brainchild of Glen Hughes and Nick Moran and features a boat ride, nearly 100 interactive games and challenges, and various drinking saloons and dining venues.

“The US is a large market and each city presents unique opportunities and drivers. We’re looking for a combination of demographics, appealing locations and resources that will help us launch and sustain success for years to come,” Hughes told BlooLoop. US cities currently being scoped out include Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and San Francisco. “We’ve had great success in London and an impressive rate of return customers. The goal now is to create a universe of distinct towns that will rotate at the end of their two-year story arc, effectively creating 10 years of content per site,” Hughes added. Phantom Peak in London has three seasons per year, with distinct aesthetics, storylines and challenges.

3. The VR Game Helping Kids To Rehabilitate

Misc by Nick Fancher

Offering much-needed escapism during a challenging time, an immersive virtual reality game that turns painful rehabilitation treatment into a fun experience for children has won a coveted gong at the Games for Change Awards in New York. As reported by The Star, Luna’s Light, a VR adventure game designed to help with upper limb rehabilitation, picked up the Best Health Game at the awards on 19 July. The game was created by Sheffield Hallam University’s ImpactVR team with help from Sheffield Children’s Hospital patients and physiotherapists, who co-created the VR experience, which combines fantasy gameplay with physical therapy.

“This recognition is a testament to the incredible collaboration we have with Sheffield Children’s Hospital. We would like to thank the staff and the patients who helped craft this extraordinary experience to improve patient lives,” said director of ImpactVR, Ivan Phelan. ImpactVR’s modus operandi is to find ways to provide treatment through fun experiences and gameplay. Paul Dimitri, Professor of Child Health at Sheffield Children’s, said the technology had the potential to be just as effective in other areas of health and rehabilitation. “VR projects such as Luna’s Light are producing outstanding results as a support to clinical therapies across different branches of child health and paediatrics.”

4. Disney Creates AI Task Force To Cut Costs

DJ Rex Inside of Oga’s Cantina, Hollywood Studios. Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

In a bid to place itself at the forefront of new developments in tech while cutting costs in the process, Disney has reportedly created a task force to study how it can incorporate AI into its global operations. According to Reuters, three sources close to the matter vouched for the information, including an internal advocate who said Disney “must understand AI or risk falling behind”. The entertainment giant is currently seeking to expand its AI expertise, with 11 of its job listings, spanning everything from Walt Disney Studios and theme parks to engineering, requiring AI and machine learning technologies expertise in order to apply.

One of the sources close to Reuters said they believed Disney is seeking to use AI as a cost-cutting tool to lower movie production and TV release costs. It is also believed Disney is seeking to use AI to enhance customer support in its theme parks. The revelation comes shortly after Disney’s metaverse chief, Mike White, left the company following the closure of Disney’s metaverse division in March, which led to 50 redundancies. Streaming giant Netflix also wants a slice of the AI pie, and is currently recruiting for two six-figure AI positions.

5. Virtual Holocaust Museum To Open In Fortnite

Voices of the Forgotten Museum video game, Global

A Holocaust museum is being built virtually inside the online video game Fortnite. As reported by the Jerusalem Post, Fortnite players will enter the virtual halls of Voices of the Forgotten Museum while in character. Created to educate younger generations about the atrocities of the past, the museum will contain plaques that describe the horrors Jews were subjected to by Nazi Germany. Lining the halls will be photos of Jewish resistance fighters and those who sheltered Jews in the early 1940s. The museum’s Hall of Historical Figures, meanwhile, will celebrate those who resisted Nazi rule.

Gamers won’t be able to play Fortnite while inside the virtual museum, which was designed in just a few weeks by game developer Luc Bernard, who created it from a desire to keep the memory of those who perished during the Holocaust alive. His goal is to make Holocaust education more easily accessible to a wider, younger audience, and he believes the virtual format within Fortnite will help to keep younger visitors more engaged than they would be in a physical museum. The museum has attracted controversy as due to Fortnite’s format, gamers could enter the virtual space dressed as a superhero or other characters that may be deemed inappropriate for the setting.

6. Wake The Tiger Secures £500K Investment

Wake The Tiger, Bristol

The world’s first ‘Amazement Park’ – Wake The Tiger in Bristol – has received a £500,000 investment from Creative UK, a not-for-profit organisation that supports the creative industries in the UK, in a move to bolster its Creative Growth Finance portfolio. The park will use the investment to meet its ambitions to double in size, creating another 850sqm of immersive multi-sensory experience for its visitors. Wake The Tiger has sold over 190,000 tickets since opening in July 2022. Set in the fantasy world of Meridia, the immersive art walk-through experience features 30 unique spaces and is suitable for all ages.

“Opportunities to invest into something completely unique don’t come along often and we’re thrilled to be able to support Wake The Tiger with a truly innovative offer, providing cultural and entertainment experiences for Bristol,” said Matt Browning, head of investment at Creative UK. Graham MacVoy, MD of Wake The Tiger, added: “Securing finance is particularly difficult at this time in the creative sector, and the Creative Growth Finance team recognised our potential as a young business, as well as the synergy of our values, and came onboard to help us grow. Our plan is to drive national footfall and add to the already incredible reputation Bristol has as a creative destination.”

7. Intense Horror Experience To Launch In Chicago

Terror Roulette, Chicago

A horror experience that’s so chilling it requires guests to sign a waiver before they enter is due to open in Chicago this autumn. As reported by BlooLoop, Terror Roulette will open at The Arboretum of South Barrington, a shopping centre in Illinois, on 29 September in time for Halloween. Seeking to thrill horror fans, each room within the experience serves as a twisted roulette wheel, spinning players into different encounters. With actors focusing 100% of their attention on attendees, offering them bespoke scares, it’s so spine-tingling in parts that safe words can be used if the experience becomes too much to bear.

Designed for those aged 16 and over, at the heart of the experience is a villain dubbed ‘The Dealer’ who “presides over a sinister realm of death” and leads a group of “maniacal slayers”, according to BlooLoop. Among the other creepy characters you’ll encounter are former circus clown Sotto Voce, who’s hell-bent on having the last laugh; youngster Shari, who kills her friends to keep them close; and the Baltic Butcher, who likes to serve his meat sill moving. Created by award-winning haunt expert Scott Swenson, Terror Roulette can accommodate groups of up to eight. Visitors are given a playing card on entry that will determine their path through the eerie underworld.