A VR Roller Coaster Can Be a Logistical Nightmare For Theme Parks
For roller coaster fans tired of loops and drops, virtual reality offers a new experience. But the technology can be a logistical nightmare for theme parks.
The time it takes to distribute headsets, get them synced and sanitized between rides cuts throughput. It’s a big deal, because throughput determines the number of people each ride can accommodate.
What is a VR Coaster?
A VR Coaster is a virtual reality roller coaster ride that combines the physical sensations and G-forces of traditional steel roller coasters with a high-definition virtual view. Riders wear a headset and can choose between multiple adventures, which can include a full-on space battle or being a dragon riding through the sky.
The technology was originally envisioned as an overlay for existing steel roller coasters to help revitalize older or less popular rides. For example, the Cobra inverted steel coaster at Ratanga Junction might have been a candidate for a VR experience that would take riders on an underwater adventure to meet the mythical Kraken creature. However, it quickly became apparent that VR didn’t work well with the type of turns and G-forces delivered by a steel coaster. In addition, the technology caused a significant amount of motion sickness in riders.
As a result, VR coasters have only been implemented at a few theme parks. The Great Lego Race at Legoland Florida allows passengers to transform into Lego mini-figures and race against each other in vehicles on the ground and in the air, while New York New York Casino in Las Vegas offers a more action-packed VR experience where riders chase alien invaders through the skies above the strip.
Europa Park in Rust, Germany, was the first park to introduce a VR roller coaster experience with its Alpenexpress Coastiality and Eurosat Coastiality coasters. Riders put on the headsets before boarding the actual rides and are then taken through a VR experience based on the film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
How does a VR Coaster work?
The idea of using virtual reality with coasters and other rides has been around for a while. The concept really took off in 2016 when Six Flags started to implement VR on multiple coasters and other rides such as Superman the Ride at Six Flags New England, Medusa Steel Coaster at Six Flags Mexico, the New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the Kong at Six Flags St. Louis.
The basic concept is that riders get a headset to wear while they are riding the actual roller coaster. This headset is paired with a video that is synchronized with the movement of the actual coaster vr roller coaster train. The synchronization is important because without it, the experience can be disorienting and uncomfortable.
Riders put on the headset as they enter the ride train, and they keep it on throughout the entire experience. In order to start the ride, a code is scanned on the seat in front of them (or a small card for the front row). This triggers the video on the headset. Then as the ride progresses, the video syncs with the movements of the train and creates a fully immersive experience.
While VR coasters are a fun and exciting addition to theme parks, they also pose some challenges. They can lower throughput for the rides because it takes longer to distribute the headsets, help riders set them up and adjust them, and clean them after each use. They also require more employees to run the ride and maintain the headsets. Additionally, they can be expensive for parks to develop and operate.
Are VR Coasters safe?
While virtual reality is an exciting technology, many people are still concerned about the safety of riding a roller coaster while wearing a VR headset. The combination of a fast-paced physical ride and a virtual experience can cause dizziness or nausea in some people.
However, the use of VR in roller coasters can actually make the ride safer and more enjoyable. By allowing riders to see an alternate universe while they are on the ride, the headsets can distract them from the physical sensations of the ride and allow them to focus on the storyline. Moreover, the synchronization between the real-world movements of the roller coaster and the simulated movement of the VR headset can help reduce the effects of motion sickness.
In addition, VR can also add a new dimension to older rides that may have lost their appeal over the years. By overlaying the roller coaster with a different VR story, parks can give the ride a fresh new look and attract visitors who would otherwise be skeptical of spending $50-$100 on an outdated ride.
The downside of using VR in roller coasters is the time it takes to sanitize and assemble headsets before each ride. This can lead to longer wait times for riders, especially when the headsets are being used by hundreds of people at once.
Are VR Coasters fun?
Theme park riders are already quite familiar with the adrenaline-pumping sensations that come along with roller coasters. Adding VR to these rides can offer an immersive experience that can make them feel even more exciting. In addition, the use of VR allows ride designers to explore new themes that they may not have been able to do with traditional rides.
For example, the VR version of VR Roller Coaster Manufacturer SeaWorld Orlando’s Kraken roller coaster took passengers underwater to see ancient sea creatures. This was a creative way to add new thrills to an existing ride without the cost and hassle of building a completely new ride.
However, implementing VR on an existing coaster can still bring challenges. One of the main problems is that the VR headsets can be unsteady, leading to a feeling of motion sickness in some riders. Additionally, the high speeds and forces of a roller coaster can cause the headstraps to become loose or fall off of passengers’ heads.
Another issue is that some VR rides have experienced long wait times due to technical issues and maintenance. Nevertheless, the emergence of wireless headsets that clip into washable helmets could solve some of these problems and make VR coasters more accessible to all visitors. In addition, some manufacturers have started generating their own VR overlays for their roller coasters instead of using external companies. This may help them to compete with VR-enabled versions of their own products and attract a wider audience.