November 17, 2010 / 3:16 PM / 7 years ago

Innovations move amusement parks into digital age

<p>A ticket vendor cleans a window of her cash counter in Prague's Holesovice fairground in this February 25, 2010 file photo.Petr Josek</p>

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The last time you visited an amusement park, did you stand in line for a popular ride? Pull soggy dollars out of your swimming trunks to buy a burger? Send photos to your friends when you got home?

That's all so yesterday, according to vendors at this week's amusement industry expo in Orlando who are launching new devices and apps to bring the park experience into the personal digital age.

"Guests are going more and more mobile, so you need to have a strategy in place to deliver content in a way your customers are demanding," said T.J. Christensen, director of business development for Accesso Mobile from Lake Mary, Florida.

The company offers a customized smartphone application that allows theme park guests to buy tickets, find rides and keep tabs on friends through a GPS map system, and post real-time updates about their day on Facebook and Twitter.

The theme parks stand to increase profits through the new digital media, according to Leonard Sim, founding director of Lo-Q, a Henley-on-Thames, U.K., company.

Lo-Q has updated its virtual queuing system, called the "Q-bot" which allows guests to digitally stand in line for popular rides through a hand-held device.

The company's new "Q-credit," created for water parks, incorporates virtual queuing in a new waterproof bracelet that also stores credit card information, enabling guests to spend money even while their wallets are stored in a locker.

The devices can be programed with tiers of services and prices, allowing premium customers, for example, to wait shorter times in virtual lines.

"Because we release people from standing in line, what do they have to do? They buy an extra Coke or an extra burger. It's quite significant," Sim said.

Fish Face, an Indianapolis company, has updated the old style photo booth so customers get both a strip of pictures and an email of the images ready to upload to social networking sites, according to company founder Beth Johnson.

And Netherlands company Tape My Day offers a video system that tracks individual guests and tapes their experiences throughout the park so they end up with a 30-minute highlight recording of their vacation.

Company founder Kees Albers says parks also can make money by selling advertisements and sponsorships that can appear on the finished tapes.

Interest by park owners is such that the annual expo of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is offering a half-day symposium on Friday on the use of social and mobile media.

Editing by Jerry Norton

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