Monday, October 19, 2009

Sum Of All Thrills: The KUKA Monster

Last night my daughter Katie and I had an opportunity to ride Epcot's newest attraction, Sum Of All Thrills. This new attraction is located in the Innoventions Blue building across from Don't Waste It!. Basically, Thrill is about allowing people to understand how math and science are used to create cool and thrilling stuff, like a roller coaster. You use those math and science principals to create your own thrill ride (a bobsled, roller coaster, or jet), then program it into the KUKA robot arm and it takes you on a thrilling, 4-D ride so you can experience your own creation. Very cool idea.

Hope and I had told the kids about the new ride and the new huge KUKA robots that are the backbone of this attraction as we were walking past Spaceship Earth on the way to Innoventions. Upon entering Innoventions, Katie said, "I can't wait to ride the KUKA Monster!" Now that is awesome. I wish they named it The KUKA Monster.

One hang-up, though: the minimum height requirement for Sum is 48" - Katie is tall enough, but Chance isn't. So Chance and Hope went to Club Cool for a while to knock back some Beverly while waiting. The other unfortunate part is that in order to do any inversions (loops, corkscrews, etc.), you have to be 54" tall - Katie is about a 1/2" away from that. So none of the truly thrilling stuff for us.

This looks awesome from the outside. The 4 huge robotic KUKA arms throw passengers around for all to see. The green, blue and red glowing lights from the attraction contrast well with the dark interior of Innoventions, and in combination with the robots, gives the whole attraction an otherworldly appearance.

The wait time for the attraction was about 20 minutes. Not bad, considering Epcot was CROWDED (both the Discover and Create parking lots were near full) was a cool Sunday evening during Food & Wine Festival, after all. I attribute the short line to the fact that not many people enter Innoventions, and also that this attraction hasn't benefited from a huge amount of publicity. Either way, we were grateful for the relatively short wait time. Waiting in line, Katie began admitting to the butterflies in her stomach. Now, this is a 10-year-old girl who begs to ride Expedition Everest, Rock & Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Primeval Hurl (err, Whirl)- and has since age 7. Not much makes her anxious, but the exterior of this did.

You move from the outer queue line into the Briefing Room. Before entering the briefing room, you're given a card that you will load your ride information, and that is what will upload your custom ride to your KUKA robot. The Briefing Room is similar to the Briefing Room at Test Track - it's there simply to give you an overview of what you're about to experience. You exit the Briefing room into the Design Lab. The Lab is where you actually design your ride from scratch. Using a large touch-screen monitor and design tools, you choose your ride and custom build it as you want. This is very easy and almost anyone should be able to work with it in order to make your ride. From there, you move upstairs toward the loading area. Once you're up, there are a handful of lockers to load loose items into before sitting down on the KUKA Monster. The cover comes down, and you're ready to go.

I didn't know exactly what to expect here; but it's very Mission Space-like. A monitor is directly in front of your face, and there is a picture-in-picture element so that I could see Katie next to me. The ride schematics load, and you're off.

I must say Sum Of All Thrills isn't that thrilling. It truly is a lot of fun, and worth doing...but not all that thrilling. The graphics on the monitor are more video game than realistic, and the extremely smooth nature of the movement actually takes away from thrill, I think. Now, Sum is very good - and good enough to raise the cool factor of Innoventions 10-fold. Innoventions needs more things like this. And the fact that you can literally design a different experience every time you ride is a huge plus. But as for the "thrill", I'll have to reserve my judgement for when I can actually do the loops and corkscrews to see the true extent of this attraction's thrill capabilities. We'll see!

Katie loved it though. "Turns out it wasn't scary at all! But it was a lot of fun! Can we do it again?!?!"

That says it all.

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