Universal’s Volcano Bay

Designing a wearable experience that washes away waiting in line.

Project Brief

When Universal Orlando® designed their newest water park, Volcano Bay, they set out to solve the greatest pain point of all theme parks — waiting in line. We partnered with Universal to design a groundbreaking digital ecosystem that had never been done before.


Research, UX Design, Visual Design, Persona Development, Product Design, Animation/Motion Graphics

Watch the full case-study

In-Park Wearable Experience

When Universal Orlando started conceptualizing Volcano Bay, they imagined an electronic water-proof band that could free guests from long waits under the Florida sun.

TapuTapu™ is Born

PRPL took this concept, “TapuTapu™”, and began to make it a reality.

Guests using the wearable would be able to reserve their spot in a digital line, freeing them to explore the park and relax in the wave pool while they waited. The band would also act as a visitor’s park pass and customer ID, activating parts of the park, and allowing guests to purchase food and beverages.

  • Strategy
  • Requirements
  • Experience
  • Wayfinding
  • Visual Design

A Splash of Strategy

Over 4 months, our team worked closely with Universal to evolve our functional requirements for over 300+ wireframes and designs.

Scope of Work

Gather foundational research, including a literature review, journey map, and personas.

Develop user activity flows, wireframes, prototypes, and UI designs for the virtual queue band, ride registration totem, cabana totem, and village totems.

User test all designs to catch usability issues and make adjustments.

Create concepts for interstitial ads and make recommendations for placement.

Creating the Ecosystem

Powered by Bluetooth®, RFID, and customized Pebble Smartwatch technology, the TapuTapu™ integrates with totems, wait time boards, and private cabanas to create an intuitive virtual environment.

tapu tapu watch
tapu tapu watch
tapu tapu watch
tapu tapu watch


The TapuTapu™ band relies on an ecosystem of technology to be effective, including queuing points for each ride (ride totems), way-finding screens (village totems), and totems for guests willing to pay a premium (cabana totems).

Every touch point should work seamlessly with Volcano Bay’s island theme.

Screen resolution & colors

Design and copy was heavily limited to preserve readability given the screen size, based on the greyscale Pebble watch.


Reactions were limited to swipe left, swipe right, and a short “buzz”, providing haptic feedback.

Battery Life

We had to limit the use of the band as much as possible to maximize battery life for the park guest.

The Guest Experience

tapu tapu watch
The Band

The guest receives a band at the when entering the park. The onboarding process begins, quickly familiarizing the guest with TapuTapu™.

Ride Totems

Here the guest can see clearly marked wait times and the means for virtual queueing are readily available. Larger digital signage should the wait time from a distance and the screens provide additional information such as “Ride Now.”

virtual line
Getting in Virtual Line

The guest activates their TapuTapu™ by tapping it against the ride totem in order to hold their position in the ride’s queuing system. They are then given a return time countdown, both on the totem screen and the wearable.

Leaving No One Stranded

tapu tapu watch
Ride Totems

Kiosks shaped like Polynesian totem poles that allow users to access the digital line for each ride. Every ride has it’s own set of ride totems.

Private Cabanas

Guests in groups can reserve cabanas for a day, which come equipped with a special totem and a few extra perks. These totems allow users to access digital lines and food and beverage sales all from the comfort of the shade.

tapu tapu watch
tapu tapu watch
Village Totems

Village totems are static screens placed throughout the park that display wait times, a map, and advertisements.

Designing Paradise

To help ensure the smooth implementation of the design system, we created a style guide that details typography, icon libraries, development specs, and best practices.

Nailing the Aesthetic

Universal encouraged us to push the skeuomorphic and playful nature of our designs, heavily laying into the wood-cut Polynesian aesthetic. We collaborated with art directors, animators, and concept artists to bring the park to life before construction was even complete!

Each area of the park was customized according to its own Polynesian style, while screen flows and touchpoints were designed for every possible instance of messaging and interaction.

Characters, maps, and UIs were animated in order to guide park guests, giving extra character to our designs while supporting our wayfinding and park experience efforts.

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