Happy 2012 to everyone!

I wanted to share a blog by an acquaintance of mine, David Deal, VP of Marketing at iCrossing. A few days ago, he posted about a new co-creative experience in Epcot at Disney World, wherein you the guest develop a virtual thrill ride, then board a contraption that simulates that ride. It's similar to the old Body Wars and Star Tours rides at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, respectively, but this time YOU create the ride, and YOU experience the creation — including twists, dives and loops. Yeah, that's right: loops.

The thing is, you have to follow the principles of engineering in order for your virtual ride to work. Remember, this is Epcot, not Universal, so there's an educational component here. The introduction to the experience educates the guest about the physics involved with engineering a ride like this. While creating your ride, the program prompts you to make corrections where necessary to allow your car to finish all those twists and loops you've created. Raytheon sponsors the experience, presumably to show kids how awesome and fun science and mathematics are.

Pretty cool, right? I remember taking the Star Tours ride a loooooong time ago, and hearing about how the engineers had to be very very careful to align the motions of the pod with the visuals on the screen to (a) make it look real; and (b) keep people from getting (too) sick. Technology has accelerated to the point where hundreds of these experiences are now created each day (no word on how common motion-sickness accidents are).

This type of co-creation is less about tapping consumers for product strategy insights, and more about allowing consumers to co-create value with Disney (and Raytheon, I guess…). Consumers are directly involved in creating the product experience of a thrill ride — not something most people can do at home, or at any other theme park. This isn't Disney's first effort at allowing its guests to co-create experiences. When I last visited the Magic Kingdom, my family visited the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. While waiting in line, guests are prompted to submit jokes via text to be used in the show. Minutes later, some of those submitted jokes are incorporated directly into the graphic and audio tracks, creating a unique interactive experience.

By co-creating value with its guests, Disney is creating unique, interactive experiences to differentiate itself amongst tourist attractions. Moreover, Disney enables guests to create highly personal experiences in a place oft remembered for its crowds — along with the smiles on the faces of kids young and old.