Tim Klauda plays Royal Caribbean augmented reality games on iPhone. (Handout/TNS)

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas introduces AR gaming

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is more like a floating city than a cruise ship. It’s 1,188 feet long, 215.5 feet wide and weighs 230,000 gross tons. Its 18 decks are also packed with brand new technology at sea, including an ice rink that converts into a laser tag arena, a traditional arcade and an indoor-outdoor sports bar arcade on the ship’s very own midway. That midway area will be adding augmented reality (AR) gaming to its interactive offerings.

Tim Klauda, vice president of digital experience at Royal Caribbean Cruises, showcased three new AR games aboard the inaugural preview SAILING OF Symphony. The technology will also be introduced to sister ships OASIS of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas this year.

“Augmented reality offers a unique way to interact with the environment without having to rely on outside tools or elaborate gaming setups,” Klauda explained. “We can connect the physical and digital world in a way that’s not otherwise possible.”

The fact that the vast majority of cruise passengers bring a mobile device with them on vacation opens the door for these types of free games. The first three games come alive when players download the Royal Caribbean app and stand in front of the carnival-style posters, which will hang on the outdoor walls of the midway boardwalk aft area of the three ships. There’s Go, Go Gopher (whack-a-mole with a gopher), Splish, Splash, Soak (a water gun game with hot air balloon targets floating all around) and Duck, Duck Bear Target Practice (a traditional shooting gallery with wooden yellow duckies and bears circling and spinning around)

Royal Caribbean previously previewed two additional games at a 2017 New York City Sea Beyond press event — Ring Toss Challenge and Plinko — so gamers will have a variety of things to play for free on these ships as these AR posters roll out.

Klauda said all of these games have been designed for multiplayer, so families can gather around the poster and play simultaneously. There will also be leaderboards to keep track of high scores.

“Gaming is something a lot of guests like to do on board,” Klauda said. “People want to stay connected, even when they’re on vacation. Games have amplified those connections.”

When he’s not developing AR games or virtual reality experiences (Royal Caribbean previewed its new Perfect Day Island in the Bahamas using HTC Vives that provided a virtual air balloon ride), Klauda is playing a lot of “Red Dead Redemption 2.” The fact that he and the tech staff are gamers helps guide everything from the arcade game selections on board (like “Luigi’s Haunted Mansion” 2-player sitdown game) to the AR games designed for the entire family.

A live action game experience awaits Symphony passengers with “Battle for Planet Z” laser tag, an 8-minute glow-in-the-dark battle in which guests fight for the robots or aliens in an epic battle. Laura Hodges Bethge, vice president of customer experience for Royal Caribbean, designed the experience, which turns the Studio B ice rink into a laser tag maze (with a floor on top of the ice so no skates are involved).

“We take technology and mix it with props, special effects and a story-driven experience so folks can bond and have a great time,” Bethge said.

Video games are also a big part of the teen, tween, and kids programs aboard the ship, where younger guests have access to unlimited Xbox One games and arcade offerings.

Symphony of the Seas sails out of Miami and visits the Caribbean on 7-night voyages weekly.

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