Become Iron Man – An interactive experience critique

Iron-Man-3

With the cinema release of Iron Man 3 this week (in the UK), I thought I’d take some time to talk about when I became Iron Man (or Iron Mark, if you will).

Back in February, a website launched ( www.becomeironman.com ) saying it would soon require testers to sign up. Over a month later, the registrations went live. Your were asked for some basic information about yourself and asked to pick a ‘testing’ location. At this location, you would be trying out the new Mark XLII (42) Iron Man amour.

As you can expect, a geek like my self could not pass up that opportunity! Luckily, the first test centre happened to be quite close and was only two weeks away from sign up.

When the day rolled round, my self and my friend and fellow tester headed to the MetroCentre, Gateshead. Here’s what we saw:

Become Iron Man

From this elevated vantage point, I could see that my theory about what the testing was going to include was 80% correct. An augmented digital experience using a technology similar to Kinect. I’ll get to what the other 20% was below.

We went down, joined the que and when asked, supplied the codes that had been generated for us by the website up on registration. This code was in-putted in to the iPad Minis that were floating around. When you stood in the designated area, the screen, which had been generic information relating to Mr Stark was replaced with your own as JARVIS started to take you through the build process.

Iron-Mark-1

Iron-Mark-2

After you get clad in the MK42 Amour the screen switches to a pre built mode with very similar graphics to what an Iron Man 3 tie-in game must look like. From here you performed systems tests. First moving on instruction, then for the enjoyment of all watching, throwing some moves as JARVIS pumped out some Hip Hop. This was a good way to test for lag with the system, which, coped well. Registering my ‘Saturday Night Fever moves with ease and little lag. When my friend tried, he threw in a spin. The system didn’t register that well, keeping the model on screen in it’s position but loosing the tracking on the arms for about 5 seconds.

After that dancing comes a firing test of the Repulsors at a number of targets. Accuracy falls at some points with some of the targets moving in front of the armour, keeping them out of view. On instruction that the suit would move if you leant back, they were easier to hit.

Iron-Mark-4

After shooting, comes flying. Doing a simple flight test that was very reminiscent of the one in the first film, but this time in full amour.

Iron-Mark-5

Iron-Man-Lanyard

After your flight test, an alert comes in featuring a clip from the trailer with people being sucked out of Air Force One. You assume the take off position and away you go! Experience done. Collect a poster and a lanyard with a card and a your code on it. Your code will mean that the screen shots that have been taken throughout the process are available online.

The whole experience was good fun and after some thought and discussion, the following suggestions and enhancements could really make this, or future experiments fantastic.

Hide the surprise

As you can see from the first picture in this post, we knew what we were getting in to immediately. This takes away some of the surprise and delight that could be achieved with the experience.

“Hide it! But then we’ll lose passing intrigue.”

Not necessarily. At this holding of the event, the vast majority of people there, were kids. They had seen it and wanted a go. The adults, had all pre-registered. To keep intrigue, putting a roof and walls up would hide what was happening inside, but around the stand additional screens could be added that relay what is being seen on the big screen to people on the outside. This would also give the opportunity for playing the trailer in between testers.

OK! I’m ready!

As a gamer, there’s a standard that has come along over the last decade, the training mission. The one you do before you actually play the game. The best example of this I’ve seen is the in the newer Bond games, where the franchise’s pre-titles sequence is used to introduce you to all of the dynamics of the game play.

This experience felt like that training mission. After all that to just jump off and leave makes the older participant feeling a little short changed. You’ve been trained in to how to fly, and fight. A little mini mission after all of that would make sense. Given that the experience is then all uploaded to the web, why not take the scores from that game and create a leader board. This would further drive engagement and enhance the experience. Perhaps the highest 10 scores would get premier tickets as an extra enticement to come to the experience.

The 20%

So at the beginning I said I was 80% right. I had before the trip worked out what I would do to be able to let people try out being Iron Man. That was was the sensible stuff. The 20% was that they may have, possibly, brought a Virtual Reality (VR) helmet to the game with a Heads Up Display (HUD) similar to the one found in the Iron Man amour. Trying it in to what is on the screen at the time, would allow for easy animations to match those in the film. The tester would be able to look down and see the amour, rather than themselves.

This would have been an even harder under taking but the results could have been spectacular. Added in with all of the actions above, this experience could take it’s self from being a pure marketing exercise to an activity added to the inevitable Marvel area of the Disneyland Resorts.

Conclusion

The Become Iron Man experience was, as I hopped, a good bit of fun. I wouldn’t advise travelling 100s of miles for it but if it were close and you’re an Iron Man fan, it’s worth it for the novelty value. It’s also a lot cheaper than actually becoming Iron Man, which, at best estimates at some where around $1.6 Billion.

I commend the marketing department at Disney / Marvel. They could really be on to a winner if they add in some of the extras mentioned above.

Have you been to the experience? Can you think of another way that it could be improved? The comments area is all yours…




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