As a company going through a time of real evolution and growth, Piranha have undertaken many firsts this year: first staff member whose role is solely focused on marketing (that would be me); first trainee engineer (our lovely Tom); first time building some purpose-built Piranha offices; and the first time the team have attended any industry conferences. Now this might seem unfathomable to all you old-timers who've been hobnobbing with the best of them since before time began; but here at Piranha, we are only just embarking on our hobnobbing adventure.
In the spirit of firsts, last Wednesday saw little old me hopping on the train to Liverpool to join the rest of the hobnobbers for the Blooloop conference (also known as blocoloop, according to autocorrect). If you haven't heard of them before (WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?), Blooloop are the most relied upon and trusted source of information for the visitor attraction industry, so naturally, I was pretty excited to be attending.
I have to say, the quality of talks was way beyond what I was expecting, it was so encouraging to hear from a whole host of people, all of whom were equally passionate about the industry they work in. I left feeling entertained, inspired, and passionate about being a part of the visitor attraction sector.
So what about tech? I know, I know, I'm waffling again. Back to the relevant bit; what did those bigwig speakers have to say about the role of tech within the VA industry? Here are a few of the key points:
21st century guests expect tech
The first block of talks featured Paul Moreton, the group creative director from Merlin Entertainments, and Michael Mack, the CEO of Europa-Park. Both talked of future plans for their attraction(s) and both discussed their new VR rollercoasters. Mack was keen to make the point that technology has not rendered the coaster redundant, but that the two work in a kind of partnership to create an experience beyond that which guests have ever had before. Mack also made the point that modern-day guests come expecting tech, it's such a huge part of their everyday lives that it would seem strange for it not to be included in the theme park experience. We have moved beyond the time where loop-the-loops were enough, to an age where the guest can now experience the coaster as an astronaut journeying through space; introducing tech to rides adds a whole new level of immersion.
Tech does not trump truth
Whilst tech is developing an increasingly important role in the visitor attraction industry, speakers were clear that the role of tech is not to detract, but to enhance the telling of stories. Here at Piranha, we heartily agree. Our mission statement, if you like, is to make those all-important stories accessible, entertaining, and memorable. There are so many attractions across the UK whose stories are going unheard because their audience is ageing, dwindling, or leaving so uninspired that they're not returning. We believe that part of the answer is to incorporate technology that will engage the younger generations, so that no story is ever forgotten.
Sometimes less is more
It's often tempting in the tech world to go for an 'all the bells and whistles' approach, but sometimes all that's needed is one piece of simple technology, used well. We know that AR has huge potential, and can be a great addition to a museum tour etc. but we also know that there are times when it would be a pointless addition, detracting from the all-important story. To put it another way; tech is not the star of the show, it's the chorus members whose harmonies perfectly compliment those of the lead, whose responses heighten every line the lead speaks, and who gently lead the audience along, helping them to feel every bit of the experience and always pointing back to the star.