By Claire Swedberg
Nov. 28, 2011—Great Wolf Lodge
, which operates 11 indoor waterpark resorts across North America, provides a variety of entertainment features for children, including an RFID
interactive game, first installed in 2009. This fall, at Great Wolf's site in the town of Scotrun, located in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, the company installed a new interactive game known as Story Explorers, designed for its younger guests, and offering a storytelling experience personalized via radio frequency identification
. Creative Kingdoms
is the provider of the MagiQuest and Story Explorers systems.
Great Wolf offers a variety of interactive entertainment for its guests. With the dragon-slaying game MagiQuest, each child carries a wand that emits an infrared signal. The player can point the wand at various stations throughout the resort facility—such as video kiosks or projections rooms that display items like a treasure chest or "magic" crystals—in order to gain points, as well as trigger such results as opening the chest or illuminating the crystals. Each station is equipped with an IR receiver in addition to an RFID reader
. Moreover, a child can carry a compass equipped with a passive high-frequency
(HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tag
compliant with the ISO 15693
standard. When the compass—containing an RFID wristband supplied by Precision Dynamics Corp.
(PDC)—is placed within the vicinity of a station's SkyeTek
Skyemodule reader, the player earns credit points known as "runes," and thus advances further in the game. MagiQuest is designed for older children, according to the resort, while Story Explorers is designed specifically for guests ages two to 10.
At each kiosk, a child places the animal's RFID tag on a symbol of a paw print, so that it is within range of the reader.
Story Explorers employs 13.56 MHz PDC RFID wristbands, attached to stuffed toy animals and reader modules built into two dozen action-station kiosks, each consisting of a touch screen and computer. The game also utilizes software residing locally on each kiosk that reads and writes data to every tag, in order to maintain a record on the tag regarding which kiosks a particular child has visited. In that way, says Amanda Roark, Great Wolf Lodge's senior communications manager, each kiosk's software reads the tag's data and, based on the results, provides appropriate information on the kiosk screen, such as a storybook text and pictures.
A child using the system first builds one of six stuffed toy animal characters—Wiley Wolf, Violet Wolf, Oliver Raccoon, Rachel Raccoon, Brinley Bear or Sammy Squirrel—from "The Perfect Howl," a story developed by Great Wolf. The storyline's current plot centers on Madison, a wolf that must find his howl before the wolf pack's monthly howl-at-the-moon session. During the game, children read
the story (or have it read to them) and, along the way, visit action stations and view parts of the tale, thereby helping return Madison's howl to him in time. Great Wolf employees attach an RFID-enabled wristband to each animal's wrist or ankle. The player first dresses his or her toy, then poses for pictures and begins the "storyteller quest." (When the child is finished playing the game, the story is printed in the form of a book, incorporating his or her pictures, which is then given to the child to take home.)
The action-station kiosks consist of Creative Kingdoms' proprietary computer board, a video screen and a Skyemodule M4 RFID reader
, according to Luke Schneider, Creative Kingdoms' CEO. At each kiosk, a child begins by placing the animal's tag
on a symbol of a paw print, so that it is within range of the reader. That tag data—consisting of the toy's unique ID number, as well as the IDs of all stations previously visited by that child—is forwarded to the Story Explorers software residing on site. Based on that information, specific pictures and text related to the story are provided on the screen, building on what he or she has already viewed at other stations. The interrogator
then writes its own ID on the tag, and the screen instructs the player to proceed to a specific station next.
After completing the process, each child can return to the location at which the stuffed animal was built, and retrieve his or her storybook. Each player is allowed to keep the animal, along with the toy's wristband.
Before installing the Story Explorers game this fall at its Pocono location, Roark says, Great Wolf Lodge tested a prototype of the system and, as a result, made some adjustments. "In some cases, there were too many steps in the process," she explains, from one kiosk to another. The resort discovered that young children and their families found it difficult to move over great distances from one action station to another, she notes, "So we simplified the steps" by keeping kiosks closer together, with less travel from one to the next.
According to Schneider, the installation was fairly straightforward. "Creative Kingdoms has a good deal of experience with RFID," he says. "As such, the typical challenges faced by developers were anticipated." However, he adds, extra care was devoted to designing the solution to hold a player's attention long enough to ensure that the child kept the tag in place within range of the interrogator for a longer duration, since "our users are children who may be more apt than an adult to run away from the RFID reader during a write cycle."
Story Explorers has been a hit with visitors to the Pocono Mountains resort, Roark says, adding, "The kids enjoy going through the whole story—it's an achievement on their part." The park plans to change the Story Explorers storyline every few months, and to feature seasonal themes so that guests can return with their animals and enjoy a new experience. What's more, she says, Great Wolf intends to install the system at some of its other properties, though the date when this will occur has yet to be determined.