The 2010s were a very moving decade for show rides. One of the major events in this decade was the worldwide rise of the Flying Theatres. This revolution came 9 years after Disney had premiered the very first Flying Theatre (Soarin’ over California at Disney California Adventure) and was led by a company that wouldn’t be in the amusement rides business if it weren’t for the Disney rides. Brogent Technologies, Inc (from Kaohsiung – Taiwan), made an unusual change from software engineering to the manufacturing of media based rides. We spoke with Stefan Rothaug, marketing and sales director of Brogent Technologies, about the rise of the company and how they came to be a world famous attraction manufacturer.
Name: Stefan Rothaug
Company: Brogent Technologies Inc (Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Since: February 2016
Favorite (semi-) dark ride:
For me at the moment it’s a no brainer: Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. It’s really incredible. How they blended the virtual parts with huge screens and set pieces together, so you don’t know really where the border between virtual and reality is. It’s a little bit of magic. If you just relax, sit down and enjoy what you see, you are really completely immersed.
Favorite show ride:
Of course it’s a Flying Theater. It’s really something that touches your heart. When I show the ride here in our factory to people, I always use the same couple of movies and I never get bored of it.
The history of the company
Brogent Technologies Inc. was founded in 2001 in Kaohsiung, the third biggest city in Taiwan. Like many ride manufacturers, Brogent didn’t actually start out as one. In fact, the company started out as a software engineering company, mostly focused on software for mobile phones. To do such a thing in those days required a lot of networking. “We developed small apps before there were app stores. You had to make contracts with the phone manufacturers to get your apps on the phone for certain markets”, tells Stefan. Brogent created several applications for phones, such as video codecs and even some games. The company gained success and managed to become more known among developers and phone manufacturers.
Brogent was contacted by Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, in the capital of Taipei. The museum wanted to have a digital catalogue of their museum items and asked Brogent to create the software. The catalogue was going to be sold on, speaking of museum items, CD-ROM in the gift shop. While working on this catalogue, the museum had another request: “Suddenly, the museum said: ‘If you can do that, can you create an Audio-Video (AV) installation in the museum, where we can show the content?’” Brogent agreed to create the installation. It was a small project, but also Brogent’s first in visitor experiences.
Meanwhile, a new theme park was being developed, just outside Kaohsiung, E-DA World. It was scheduled to open in 2010 and was still looking to add new rides to the park. The owners of the park were impressed by Disney’s Soarin’ and wanted to have a similar ride in their park. However, at the time of the development of the park, Dynamic Attractions (who built the Soarin’ rides) were not selling these Flying Theatres. “They were looking for a vendor for this kind of flying theatre. We looked into it and saw that for the AV part we were already capable of building it,” tells Stefan.
Brogent took on the challenge to develop the flying theatre. They attracted a team of experts that had worked on railroad and earthquake simulators before, to their company. The newly assembled team spent two years engineering and producing the ride for E-DA World, “Feeling Taiwan” and the attraction opened right on time when E-DA World opened its doors on December 18th 2010. Before the opening, the park had already signed a second contract with Brogent for a second ride, a 4D Theatre.
However, Brogent still considered itself a software company and expected to go back to software engineering after delivering these rides. It wasn’t until Vekoma, a well-respected rides manufacturer from The Netherlands, saw the flying theatre and its potential. They were so impressed by the work of Brogent that they convinced the company to stay in the theme park business. “They thought it was a good product and they had the ambition to help us with the distribution and bring the ride to the international theme park market. That’s how our partnership with Vekoma started.”
In the following years, Brogent started working on new products. They gained a new broad mission ‘’To use digital technology to bring new experiences to the world’’. Now, over a decade later, Brogent has built over 35 rides on four continents and they have one thing in common – they are all media based. With their roots in software engineering, the company knows what they do best and that is combining visitor experiences with their software.
During the early years, Brogent would join Vekoma during trade shows, but nowadays the company has their own booth. They still have a strong partnership with Vekoma, who sell rides for Brogent in the western market.
Stefan Rothaug joined the company in 2016 and works in the sales and marketing department of Brogent Technologies. His team is responsible for advertisements, public relations, networking at trade shows, the brand building of Brogent and, of course, the sales of rides. Stefan explains that it is not easy to sell simulator rides at a trade show, since you can’t show the experience of a simulator ride at a trade show booth. “The best thing to do is to take people for a ride. It’s really helpful that we have rides literally around the world now. We can arrange something to let people experience a ride so they know what it is.” Afterwards, the rides often sell themselves.
The rides of Brogent Technologies, Inc.
Ever since Brogent transformed into a rides manufacturer, one ride is clearly the most popular in their catalogue: the flying theatre (model name: i-Ride). About 20 versions were built in just 10 years. “We are probably known now as the Flying Theatre company”, says Stefan, “That is good, but it is also a bit of a curse.” He estimates that the company spends almost 95% of its time on the engineering of flying theaters. It’s dangerous for the company to be known for just a single product, because when the popularity of flying theatres should drop, Brogent’s sales might drop too. “From a strategy point of view, you have to be careful, because of that risk”, tells Stefan. It’s a dilemma. Resources and engineering time are limited. However, the company is not passing on the opportunity to build a flying theatre: “The demand is there, why would you give up on the flying theatre-business to do something else?”
The Flying Theatre is such a popular and complex ride, that we had an extensive conversation with Stefan about the development of these rides. They will be featured in a special of their own. In this article, we will take a closer look at the other rides in Brogent’s catalogue.
While developing the Flying Theatre for E-DA World, the company already signed two contracts to manufacture a 4D Theatre (model name: v-Ride). At first sight, Brogent’s 4D Theatres seem a bit generic as they consist of just a theatre with motion seats and a flat screen. However, there is a certain smoothness in these rides that you can’t find on most other simulator rides.
The key to the higher quality of the v-Ride compared to systems from competitors comes from two important factors. First, Brogent use electric motors, rather than a classic hydraulic system to drive their simulators. Electric motors offer more subtle and thus smoother movement options. Second, obviously their software skills to program and synchronise the motion platform with the film. “You can talk a lot about hardware, but in the end if the experience is good, that depends on the motion that is programmed to the movie.” It is the combination of hardware and software that creates the experience. One of the two new v-Rides is 4D Wonderland at E-DA World, but the first of the two to open is Dynamic Movie in Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (Taiwan). In the years to follow, five more v-Rides opened: Polar Expedition in Shang Shun World (Taiwan), Arctic 1 in Wildlands Adventure Zoo (The Netherlands), Tim’s Rescue in Yumble (The Netherlands, now defunct) and two installations in China.
Brogent are currently not actively selling v-Rides anymore. “There are different reasons for that”, Stefan explains, “Of course we can still sell it, but normally when clients come to us, they come for more sophisticated things. There are other ways to create a 4D Theatre, which are from a cost-performance perspective more attractive for operators. In other words, it is really hard for us to penetrate the market in that segment, because there are a lot of other offerings on lower ends. We try to deliver a higher quality and that comes with a higher price tag. It is very hard to communicate this kind of quality difference to a client who has a certain budget and needs to produce a certain experience. Not a lot of operators see the value and feel the cheaper versions are good enough.”
In the following years, Brogent developed multiple simulators and dark rides and were able to show them to the public when Shang Shun World (Taiwan) opened in 2015. The indoor theme park contains almost the complete Brogent catalogue. Besides the earlier mentioned v-Ride, they also bought a flying theatre (Flying Over China) and five new rides of Brogent. They opened two one of a kind simulator rides: the Back to Jurassic Immersive Tunnel (model name: t-Ride) and Galactic Adventure, a cabin-motion simulator with six degrees of freedom (model name: x-Ride). Brogent has not built a second version of these rides yet.
It was also in Shang Shun World where Brogent would show their first two dark rides (model name: d-Ride): Toy Battle and Steel Mecha Team. These are the first two rides of the company that are not simulators or show rides, but are nevertheless media based. “We have only done media based dark rides, because we are a media based attractions company. We are not a company that is involved in animatronics or set building, things like that. But we know how to do AV, how to do screens and how to do software. That’s also the part of the ride we will do in house. The ride system is not made by us. We have worked with other companies,” tells Stefan, “But who knows, maybe we will bring our motion based expertise to the dark ride world one day.”
Brogent is the turnkey manufacturer for these rides, meaning that they will deliver the complete ride, including ride system, to the customer. They can work with different ride system manufacturers for each ride and therefore give the customer the option for the ride type (such as trackless or track bound rides). So far, only one more d-Ride was sold to Yumble (The Netherlands, defunct), called ‘Mia and Me’, based on a children’s TV show. The two dark rides of Shang Shun World are the only ones that are still in operation.
Finally, they introduced the 360° Hot Air Balloon-simulator (model name: v-Ride 360). This ride is completely different from the v-Ride. It consists of a motion platform, surrounded by a large 360° projection screen that gives riders an experience comparable to a balloon flight. The ride movement is so smooth that it allows riders to stand and move on the platform, rather than sitting down. Unfortunately, this means the ride does not qualify for an entry in the database.
After the opening of Shang Shun World, it would take three more years before the introduction of a new ride type, called the Q-Ride. This is a simulator type that consists of three benches in a triangle shape. Riders take their place on one of the benches and receive VR-headgear and the triangle moves with six degrees of freedom. The first version opened in 2018 in DiverCity Shopping Mall (Tokyo, Japan), with a second installation a year later in Skytropolis (Genting Highland, Malaysia). These two VR-experiences also do not qualify for an entry in the database.
Brogent has a very mixed catalogue for a media based ride manufacturer. However, besides the flying theatres, not many rides were sold more than once or twice. “We actually have a nice product portfolio, we just don’t have the positive market feedback yet”, says Stefan. Fortunately, this is slowly changing. After the v-Ride 360 prototype in Shang Shun World, Brogent recently opened a second installation in VinWonders (Phú Quốc, Vietnam), called Aladdin’s Grand Palace Tour. This second version already contains a lot of improvements on technical aspects. It is themed as a magic carpet-flight ride instead of a hot air balloon and Stefan is very excited about these developments.
Into the future
Stefan also spoke about his vision fornew media-based rides in the future. He pointed out that recent media-based rides, such as Universal’s Transformers, have a much quicker storytelling compared to traditional dark rides. Stefan looks at these developments like the developments in movies: “If you look at Hollywood movies and how fast they cut, there is a development you can see. And I think if you would look deeper in media-based rides, you would also see this same kind of development.” In the future, media based attractions might tell stories a lot quicker.
One of the new projects Brogent is currently working on is an interactive racing simulator. “Because we think the future might go in the interactive direction. Not the traditional interactive, the simple shooting, but perhaps even more interactive,” says Stefan, aiming at the interactivity of Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run simulators in Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this Star Wars simulator, riders actually have an influence on the course of the ride. “And VR, we can talk a lot about VR. That is something we cannot ignore, because everybody is doing it now.” There is no doubt that Brogent’s history in software engineering provides the company with a good foundation to keep up with these developments.
With this short look to the future, we end the first part of our interview with Stefan of Brogent Technologies Inc. We would like to thank him for his time and stories about his work at Brogent Technologies. Keep an eye out for our follow-up special: “Flying Around The World in Brogent Technologies’ i-Ride”, coming soon!
© 2021 Dark Ride Database
Interview by Erik and Johan
Article by Erik