Two new areas have opened up recently inside Epcot's Innoventions. That's good news for guests, as there have been many challenges keeping enough offerings open at both the Innoventions West and Innoventions East pavilions. Both complement the entire Innoventions experience, but are very different in their approach.
When IBM's previous offering went down for renovation, it looked like a ghost town at Innoventions West. With Segway closing its regular guest option (it still provides a pay-for-tour experience), the removal of the Rockin' Robots (it's been used as a temporary office space for getting Test Track up and running again), and with what was the Slap Stick Studios being turned into another exclusive only-if-you-have-the-right-credit-card character meet-and-greet (how many of those things do we need?), things were looking very sparse. Only The Great Piggy Bank Adventure and Where's the Fire remained.
This exhibit with IBM takes up a great deal of space, but not as much as previous exhibits.
If you are an Epcot purist and you missed attractions that came from the old days of Communicore, you will probably love this attraction. It's hands-on and interactive. But it's largely educational. There is no effort here to be intensely entertaining. It begins with a film that, while modern, has as much excitement written into it as the pre-show film for The Living Seas or the post-show film for The Universe of Energy. But it is informative, and makes some great points about the potential for utilizing data, including growing better strains of rice, individualizing human DNA, and reducing pollution/conjestion in the cities.
The main exhibit space focuses on ongoing IBM projects throughout the world. Around the room is a timeline that overviews many of IBM's innovations over the last 100 years. It would take a 20-30 minutes just to read through these, but many are very interesting, and one can see that IBM's accomplishments are many.
Large touch screens in the center of the room take you through one of five different themes: Seeing, Mapping, Understanding, Believing, and Acting.
There is a game on one wall. It doesn't have much in the way of instructions—at least when I played. The idea is to match up one IBM concept with the other. If the icons don't make much sense, don't worry. Just look at the big icons on the wall—they are already matched up.
What makes this fun is that there are some really interesting factoids that go with each round. In one instance, which includes magnetic stripes and a credit card, you find out that people swipe cards through mag stripe readers more than 50 billion times a year. But that technology might not exist if it hadn't been laundry day when IBM engineer Forrest Parry was trying to attach magnetized tape to plastic. His wife was ironing clothes and suggested he use the iron—it worked.
There's a payoff if you match the icons—and it's enough to get even kids interested in the exhibit. Correct answers result in buttons that the IBM hosts give away freely.
For that reason, you might get your kid to come in and play. Otherwise, it's more of an exhibit with adult sensibilities and ideas. But if you need something more to get your kids excited about Innoventions, you may want to head to the second new exhibit.
Habit Heroes reopened this month. It had opened a year ago to Epcot guests, but barely a few days into it, the attraction received terrible reviews that spread nationwide. I've written a review of that attraction here. I also wrote my suggestions of what the attraction needed here. The result of all the criticism was the exhibit closed—not for tweaking, but to be completely reworked.
And for the most part, this new attraction works pretty well. It's also designed for a much younger audience than IBM's THINK. You won't walk away having learned something new, but you might be a little more inspired to take better care of yourself. Maybe.
You are recruited to join the Habit Heroes and are invited into their training facility. There, you are introduced to Director Jin, along with agents Quench, Fuel, and Dynamo. They endorse good hydration, nutrition, and exercise, while fighting three types of health-hazzard villains: Scorchers, Sappers, and Blocker Bots—all of whom keep you from mastering good habits.
There are three sections to the training regiment that correspond to your own health, to improving your city, and, finally, saving the world. In the first room you practice one of three jump/punch type routines. The more you move, the more your individual contribution adds to the entire effort.
The second room plays off of cannons similar to Toy Story Mania. Previously, you were wiping out a Candyland variety of junk food. Now, you're simply fighting the villainous Scorchers, Sappers, and Blocker Bots over a cityscape. During part of the training exercise, you have to work in teams to eliminate these villains.
In the final room, you are given a colored card, which corresponds to one of the machines around the room. As you see villains falling out of the sky and into what seem like a cartoon version of World Showcase, you hold your card near the correct machine to eliminate them.
Upon completion, you are rewarded with one of three different colored rubber bands. Just when you thought you passed your training regiment, a mission comes in from Director Jin. Based on the colored band you received, you are to take a card, go out into Epcot's Future World, and unlock a clue. Then you are to return to base and enter your data.
This activity is not too difficult if you are older than 7. In fact, it's somewhat lame, and, if you're like me, you might guess the answer without going out in the first place.
But whatever your age, there's not a lot of inspiration to walk back to the kiosk and enter your data. And there isn't much of a reward in doing so, other than you receive an invitation to visit the HabitHeroes.com website.
It takes about 15 minutes to go through this exercise, then another 10-15 minutes to go into Future World and return with your answer. I'm thinking that there are a lot of recruits that are going to fade away and move on to Test Track or something else that interests them more. Still, the physical activities of the training will be enjoyed by those recruits who need parental approval to sign up for the e-mail that follows.
The upside here is that anything controversial has been removed from this attraction, and it is interactive and somewhat entertaining. The downside is, that unlike IBM's THINK, there isn't much thinking involved. It really offers little educational insight and comes across as simply some filler game/activity.
Should you visit either one or possibly both? Asking whether you should visit this attraction is a little bit like asking yourself if you should have spent time visiting the old Great American Census, or Compute a Coaster, or see Backstage Magic in the days of Communicore. These are "B-Ticket" items in a place where most sponsors are trying to provide "E-Ticket" options like Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Soarin', Test Track and The American Adventure.
If you only have one day to visit the park on your stay, you probably won't do more than simply walk through any of the offerings at Innoventions. But if you come back during a park-hopper stay, or if you have an annual pass, it can really complement your visit. Neither requires more than 15 minutes. They are worthwhile filler while waiting for a FastPass return or for a dining reservation. But activity-wise they don't hold water compared to the major Epcot attractions. They don't even compare to Sum of All Thrills, where you not only get a ride experience, you walk away knowing something about math and how it plays out in designing rides and attractions.
Still, there's always someone visiting these attractions—and they appeal to some guests more than others.
Do you make it a point to visit a particular Innoventions exhibit when you are at Epcot? Would these two new ones that appeal to you? Let us know.
(Send an email to Jeff Kober)
J. Jeff Kober, (@MousePlanetJeff) president of Performance Journeys and CEO of World Class Benchmarking, is also a thought leader on best-in-business practices at the Walt Disney Company. He brings those ideas to organizations via keynotes, seminars, and workshops to organizations around the world. He has authored "The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney" as well as a "Disney at Work" series of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, available via DisneyatWork.com. You can find out more about his newest book, "Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence" at LeadWithYourCustomer.com.