This Superman rollercoaster just received a Virtual Reality upgrade
Companies are scrambling over themselves to embrace the VR craze. The current daddy is Oculus, who launched their acclaimed Rift headset in March to squeals of elation from early adopters around the world. Google have also got in on the act with a budget cardboard headset imaginatively named “Google Cardboard”.
The Man of Steel gets the VR treatment
But it’s not just the tech industry that’s jumping on the VR bandwagon - oh no. US theme park chain Six Flags just upgraded a 15-year-old Superman rollercoaster into a VR experience. Thrill-seekers strap on a Samsung Galaxy Gear headset and the movements of the ride are synced up with a virtual story which fully immerses you into the world of Superman and Lex Luther.
This incredibly fast ride begins by throwing riders straight in at the deep end, as the Man of Steel and his great foe face off mid-battle. You journey through Metropolis in a virtual train compartment which is hijacked by Luther, and as the man otherwise known as Clark Kent flies in to the rescue, the train jerks around and crashes in tandem with the real-life chicanery of the rollercoaster. Finally – SPOILER ALERT - Superman saves the day and catches the train before it’s too late. What seems absurd on paper is genuinely terrifying in reality.
How it works
Thomas Wagner, co-founder and CEO of VR Coaster explains that the difference between a pure VR simulation and a fully-integrated VR rollercoaster is how it completely immerses the rider into the virtual world:
“If you have a VR simulation where you’re going very quickly through a simulated world you tend to get nausea because you don’t feel the movement and rotation. But if you this motion in the real world and a VR simulation that is precisely synced, then it’s still a rollercoaster but you don’t any nausea and you don’t get dizzy. So the key is to synchronise the virtual reality ride to the real ride.”
A black box is attached to the rollercoaster and contains a number of sensors. This creates information that is sent to the rider’s VR headset, which transmits the virtual world as the train ventures through every violent curve and plummet into the abyss. VR plays with our perception of the real world, and a 45-degree slide in real life can be turned into a steep 90-degree drop in the simulated world.
VR coasters are here to stay
Six Flags’ Superman: Ride of Steel is by no means the only VR rollercoaster around. The theme park chain is banking on this technology being a big success, and recently debuted nine VR coasters at its parks in the US and Canada. Meanwhile in Europe, Europa-Park in Germany has the Alpenexpress Coastiality, which allows visitors to ride on a dragon, and earlier this year Alton Towers unveiled Galactica, the world’s first rollercoaster custom-built for VR. This ride also uses Samsung Galaxy Gear headsets and takes passengers on a journey through space.