Carnegie Mellon University

The Waiting Game

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Students' 'Get in Line' Entertains

Get in Line Characters

Good things come to those who wait, thanks to a team of students at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). After observing what people do in long lines — from airports to Walt Disney World — the students came up with something they thought would help make the experience more tolerable.

The team researched the psychology of waiting in lines as well as various technologies that could facilitate the types of entertainment experiences the ETC is renowned for developing. What resulted was a two-hour interactive, themed entertainment experience consisting of competitive games played via the guests' cell phones — complete with video interstitials, trivia and a webcam turned on the audience. (Watch the video.)

"Get in Line captures two of the positive experiences people associate with waiting," ETC student Tracy Kobeda Brown explained. "The anticipation of the event you are waiting for, such as a thrill ride or dinner, and the experience and memories that are associated from social interactions with friends or family — a little something we call 'queue-munity.'"

A test of the game at the 2008 Building Virtual Worlds (BVW) received rave reviews from participants.

Brown said they knew that students and the community would arrive to the show at least two hours early, providing the team with a captive queue audience.

"This was the perfect testing bed for our line experience," Brown said.

When guests entered the line, they self-identified as left-brain or right-brain participants to create two teams. The experience began with a countdown timer and energetic music that transitioned into videos explaining BVW and showcasing projects at the ETC.

"We crafted a story that supported the theme of the BVW experience and games that people played using their cell phones," Brown said. The left-brained (analytical) and right-brained (creative) lines competed for the ultimate honor of superiority before working together to achieve even greater success.

"This message was the ultimate theme for what happens in the Building Virtual Worlds class — the bringing together of artists and technologists and everything in between to create engaging, cutting edge interactive entertainment experiences," Brown said.

The feedback that the team received surpassed their expectations. Guests reported that they "loved" the idea, were "amazed" with the technology and encouraged the team to "sell it to amusement parks immediately — specifically Disney."

"Our favorite comment was that our line experience felt like 'the line of the future,'" Brown said.

The team plans to create a spinoff company from the Get in Line prototype and is working to expand the concept this semester for a May 2009 launch.

"We learned not to underestimate the ideas and intuitions we have," Brown said. "We also learned that sometimes it is the simplest ideas that can have the biggest impact."

Related Links: Watch Video  |  Get In Line  |  Entertainment Technology Center  |  About the 2008 BVW Show