High Concept

It's the catch-22 of vacations. Eager to capture precious moments, you lug your camera everywhere, forcing family members into unnatural poses and sapping said precious moments of their fun and spontaneity.

MetaSignal Inc. has a solution -- at least for devotees of theme parks. The start-up, based in Newton, Mass., has designed a network of digital video cameras, distributed around the Disneylands and Busch Gardens of the world, that will record the high old times of park visitors. It will work this way: tourists rent tags similar to the kind that allow cars to ignore toll buckets on some highways. Tracking a radio-frequency signal emitted by the tags, MetaSignal's cameras record visitors' antics throughout the day. Tag wearers then drop by a booth to buy CD-ROMs (tentative pricing: $20 to $25) or DVDs (tentative pricing: $30 to $35) of the documentary-style videos. If groups split up, footage of their individual adventures can be assembled on a single disk.

Amusement-park economics are such that MetaSignal will have to share 20% to 40% of its proceeds with park operators, as well as hire scores of seasonal workers to handle customer service and sales. At press time the company had no firm customers, but with 300 million people thronging park attractions annually, the potential audience is huge. And founder Feng Chi Wang, formerly a senior staff engineer at Motorola, is betting that boomer parents will clamor for images of their children screaming through quick drops and corkscrew turns. There's the moony teen market as well. "Using our system you can search for every image that includes both you and Susie, the girl you have a crush on," Wang says.



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