Virtual reality roller coaster

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A virtual reality roller coaster is a special kind of amusement park ride attraction, consisting of a roller coaster facility or ride that can be experienced with virtual reality headsets.[1] The setup has been invented[2] by Thomas Wagner, who has also produced most of the worldwide installations with his company VR Coaster GmbH & Co. KG since late 2015.[3][4] Since then, several theme parks all over the world have been adapting this technology to extend their existing coaster facilities.[5][6]

Background and history[edit]

A train of the Superman – The Ride virtual reality roller coaster at the Six Flags New England theme park. Riders are wearing Gear VR virtual reality headsets.

While virtual reality roller coaster simulations quickly became quite popular after the appearance of the Oculus Rift, it showed that dizziness and motion sickness, known as virtual reality sickness, would be a major problem.[7] This was caused by the offset between the simulated motion in virtual reality and the lack of real motion, as the inner sense of balance wouldn't feel the appropriate forces and turns.[8] In order to test if this could be overcome by synchronizing virtual reality movement to real motion, a research group of the University of Applied Sciences, Kaiserslautern, led by Thomas Wagner, together with roller coaster manufacturer Mack Rides and Europa-Park, has been conducting experiments on actual roller coaster facilities since early 2014.[9] It showed that, with a precise synchronization, not only the nausea would disappear, but also a new kind of attraction was created as, for the first time, this setup allowed for a simulation ride to feature continuous G forces, zero gravity and drops (or so-called air time).

Still, the technical setup of the 2014 experiments was not feasible yet for a permanent installation. Most of all, mounting a computer on a coaster train would not have worked due to the continuous heavy vibrations; also the usual cable connection of a classical virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift would have meant a serious safety hazard. Wagner and his team could eventually overcome these problems by deploying so called mobile virtual reality headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, where the entire image generation happens directly inside of the actual headset. The very first virtual reality roller coaster installations have been opened to the public in late 2015,[10] starting at Europa-Park, Germany, followed by Canada's Wonderland[11] and Universal Studios Japan,[12] all of them developed by the startup company VR Coaster, which originated from Wagners Research Group.[13]

In 2014, another startup called Astral Vision[14] presented a wearable technology prototype for theme park rides that uses mobile phone sensors and does not require additional sensors.

As of June 2016, 17 theme parks worldwide were operating virtual reality roller coasters.

Technical solutions[edit]

Key to a comfortable virtual reality experience on an actual moving ride attraction is a precise synchronization of the virtual ride animation.[15][16] To achieve this, the coaster train is equipped with special hardware that monitors the position of the train in the track layout and then wirelessly transmits this information to the headsets of the riders.[17][16][18] This is also crucial, as the virtual reality experience needs to run in absolute tracking mode (unlike relative tracking when used at home, where the virtual reality view automatically rotates with a virtual vehicle), so without a precise tracking solution, curves and turns would not be in the right place. In other words, a virtual cockpit must always turn and travel in exactly the same direction as the real coaster car, which would not be possible without an automated synchronization. Still, as the human sense of balance can't detect absolute velocities but only acceleration and turns, speed and dimensions can be altered in virtual reality.[19] Even curves can be bent to different angles, as long as the relative direction of the turn is preserved (clockwise or counterclockwise).[20]

Experience[edit]

As virtual reality allows for several modifications and extensions of the actual track layout, the size of the virtual reality track can be much larger than the real one.[21] This of course means that speeds can be much faster and heights much taller, as these aspects also grow with the increased dimensions. Most of all, there is no need to show an actual track or rails (which would give away what element comes next), other than for dramaturgical reasons. As the rider is totally immersed in the virtual reality world, one can even be tricked by giving hints on a wrong track direction and then e.g. have a giant creature grabbing the virtual cockpit and carrying it into a different direction (which turns out to be the actual direction of the rails). Also, the effect of physical track elements like block brakes can be utilized in the virtual reality experience for dramatic elements like crashing through a virtual barrier or building[22] Riders report after their first virtual reality roller coaster ride that it is unlike anything they have ever experienced before.[23]

Operation[edit]

Riders are provided with virtual reality headsets to wear whilst on the ride. These headsets may be portable, or permanently attached to the ride itself and will display a synchronised video to the riders who experience the motions of the ride combined with the alternate reality provided through the headsets. After the ride, headsets are sanitised and (where applicable) recharged for future use.

In most cases, the virtual reality aspect of the ride is optional, and in some cases a supplement may be required for use.

Appearances[edit]

In Operation? Name Name of Roller Coaster Type Duration Length in Meters VR optional? Opening Roller Coaster Manufacturer VR Developer Park Country City, Region Note
checkY Alpenexpress Coastiality Alpenexpress Enzian[24] Powered Coaster 1:40 264 checkY

5/19 VR-Rows

September 17, 2015[25] Mack Rides MackMedia and VR Coaster[26] Europa-Park  Germany Rust, Baden-Württemberg
checkY Thunder Run VR Thunder Run[27] Powered Coaster 1:24 330,1 checkY October 3, 2015 Mack Rides VR Coaster Canada's Wonderland  Canada Vaughan, Ontario
checkY VR Coaster Freedom Flyer[28] Suspended Family Coaster 1:00 395 checkY November 16, 2015 Vekoma VR Coaster Fun Spot America  United States Orlando, Florida VR Demonstration at IAAPA 2015
checkY Universal Studios Japan XR Rides Space Fantasy: The Ride[29] Spinning Coaster 2:35 585 checkY January 14, 2016[30][31] Mack Rides VR Coaster Universal Studios Japan  Japan Osaka, Osaka World's first rollercoaster fully dedicated to Virtual Reality
☒N Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster Shock Wave Sit-Down Coaster 2:00 1097,3 checkY March 10, 2016 Schwarzkopf VR Coaster Six Flags Over Texas  United States Arlington, Texas
☒N Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster Dare Devil Dive Sit-Down Coaster 639,8 checkY March 12, 2016 Gerstlauer Amusement Rides VR Coaster Six Flags Over Georgia  United States Austell, Georgia
☒N Pegasus Coastiality Pegasus Youngstar Coaster 1:30 400 checkY

4/10 VR-Rows

March 17, 2016 Mack Rides Ambient Entertainment, VR Coaster and MackMedia Europa-Park  Germany Rust, Baden-Württemberg
checkY Dinolino's VR-Ride Familienachterbahn Sit-Down Coaster 1:25 222 checkY March 19, 2016[32] Zierer VR Coaster Erlebnispark Schloss Thurn  Germany Heroldsbach, Bayern
☒N Galactica Air[33] Flying Coaster 1:40 840 checkY March 24, 2016 Bolliger & Mabillard Figment Productions Alton Towers Resort  United Kingdom Alton, Staffordshire Moorlands
☒N Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster New Revolution Sit-Down Coaster 2:12 1053,7 checkY March 25, 2016 Schwarzkopf VR Coaster Six Flags Magic Mountain  United States Valencia, California
checkY Mount Mara[34] Revolution Sit-Down Coaster 2:20 720 checkY March 26, 2016 Vekoma VR Coaster Bobbejaanland  Belgium Lichtaart, Antwerp
checkY Linnunrata eXtra[35] Linnunrata Sit-Down Coaster 0:50 360 checkY May 1, 2016 Zierer VR Coaster Linnanmäki  Finland Helsinki, Uusimaa, Finland
☒N The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster Goliath Hyper Coaster 1231 checkY May 19, 2016 Bolliger & Mabillard VR Coaster La Ronde  Canada Montréal, Québec
☒N Iron Dragon Iron Dragon Suspended Coaster 2:00 853 checkY May 24, 2016 Arrow Dynamics VR Coaster Cedar Point  United States Sandusky, Ohio
☒N Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster Ninja Sit-Down Coaster 2:00 740,7 checkY May 24, 2016 Vekoma VR Coaster Six Flags St. Louis  United States Eureka, Missouri
☒N SUPERMAN Ride of Steel Virtual Reality Coaster Superman - Ride of Steel Mega Coaster 2:10 1630,7 checkY June 8, 2016 Intamin Amusement Rides VR Coaster Six Flags America  United States Upper Marlboro, Maryland
☒N SUPERMAN Krypton Coaster Virtual Reality Coaster Superman Krypton Coaster Floorless Coaster 2:35 1226,8 checkY June 8, 2016 Bolliger & Mabillard VR Coaster Six Flags Fiesta Texas  United States San Antonio, Texas
☒N SUPERMAN The Ride Virtual Reality Coaster Superman the Ride Mega Coaster 2:35 1645,9 checkY June 9, 2016 Intamin Amusement Rides VR Coaster Six Flags New England  United States Agawam, Massachusetts
☒N The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster Steamin' Demon Sit-Down Coaster 0:37 477 checkY June 20, 2016 Arrow Dynamics VR Coaster Great Escape  United States Queensbury, New York
checkY Olandese Volante Olandese Volante Mine Train 2.30 681 checkY June 25, 2016 Vekoma Moviemex3D Rainbow Magic Land  Italy Valmontone (Rome) First Italian VR Coaster
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Demon Sit-Down Coaster 1:45 649 checkY August 10, 2016 Arrow Dynamics VR Coaster Six Flags Great America  United States Gurnee, Illinois
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Skull Mountain Sit-Down Coaster 1:24 420 checkY September 20, 2016 Intamin Amusement Rides VR Coaster Six Flags Great Adventure  United States Jackson, New Jersey
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Kong Suspended Looping Coaster 1:36 689 checkY September 22, 2016 Vekoma VR Coaster Six Flags Discovery Kingdom  United States Vallejo, California
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Shock Wave Sit-Down Coaster 2:00 1097,3 checkY Schwarzkopf VR Coaster Six Flags Over Texas  United States Arlington, Texas
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Ninja Sit-Down Coaster 2:00 740,7 checkY Vekoma VR Coaster Six Flags St. Louis  United States Eureka, Missouri
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Dare Devil Dive Sit-Down Coaster 639,8 checkY Gerstlauer Amusement Rides VR Coaster Six Flags Over Georgia  United States Austell, Georgia
☒N Rage of the Gargoyles: Virtual Reality Coaster Goliath Hyper Coaster 1231 checkY Bolliger & Mabillard VR Coaster La Ronde  Canada Montréal, Québec
checkY Freedom Flyer 2.0 Freedom Flyer[28] Suspended Family Coaster 1:00 395 checkY November 16, 2016 Vekoma VR Coaster Fun Spot America  United States Orlando, Florida
☒N Santa's Wild Sleigh Ride The New Revolution Sit-Down Coaster 2:12 1053,7 checkY November 19, 2016 Schwarzkopf VR Coaster Six Flags Magic Mountain  United States Valencia, California Christmas Special
☒N SHAMAN Magic Mountain (roller coaster) Sit-Down Coaster 2:00 700 checkY 2017 Vekoma Figment Productions Gardaland  Italy Castelnuovo del Garda, Veneto
checkY Arkham Asylum Arkham Asylum – Shock Therapy Suspended Looping Coaster 1:42 765 checkY 2016-17 Vekoma VR Coaster Warner Bros. Movie World  Australia Gold Coast, Queensland
checkY Evangelion XR Ride Space Fantasy - The Ride Sit-Down Coaster 585 checkY January 13, 2017 Mack Rides VR Coaster Universal Studios Japan  Japan Osaka, Osaka This ride is a part of the "Universal Cool Japan 2017" event, concluded on June 25, 2017.
checkY Dæmonen Virtual Reality Dæmonen Floorless Coaster 1:46 564 checkY April 6, 2017 Bolliger & Mabillard VR Coaster Tivoli Gardens  Denmark Copenhagen
checkY Tren de la Mina VR Coaster Tren de la Mina Sit-Down Coaster 1:46 564 checkY May 20, 2017 Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GmbH VR Coaster Parque de Atracciones de Madrid  Spain Madrid
checkY Astral Vision WindstarZ Family Rides 2:01 480 checkY March, 2017 Zamperla Astral Vision Luna Park  United States New York
☒N Master Thai VR Coaster Master Thai Sit-Down Coaster 2:10 checkY May 20, 2017 Preston & Barbieri VR Coaster Mirabilandia  Italy Savio
checkY Titan VR Coaster Titan Sit-Down Coaster 1:20 823 checkY January 14, 2017 Sansei Technologies VR Coaster Selva Mágica  Mexico Guadalajara
☒N Galactic Attack: Mind Eraser Virtual Reality Coaster Mind Eraser Suspended Looping Coaster 1:36 689 checkY May 20, 2017 Vekoma VR Coaster Six Flags New England  United States Agawam
☒N Galactic Attack: Mind Eraser Virtual Reality Coaster Mind Eraser Suspended Looping Coaster 1:36 689 checkY May 20, 2017 Vekoma VR Coaster Six Flags America  United States Upper Marlboro
checkY Joyride Virtual Reality Coaster Joyride Sit-Down Coaster 1:15 280 checkY May 20, 2017 L&T Systems VR Coaster Powerland  Finland Kauhava
checkY French Revolution 2.0 VR French Revolution Sit-Down Coaster 1:45 checkY November 26, 2016 Vekoma VR Coaster Lotte World  South Korea Seoul
checkY Batman: Arkham Asylum VR Coaster Batman: Arkham Asylum Inverted Coaster 1:20 823 checkY May 20, 2017 Bolliger & Mabillard VR Coaster Parque Warner Madrid  Spain Madrid
checkY Steampunk Hunters Western-Expressen Sit-Down Coaster 1:15 335 checkY April 22, 2017[36] Vekoma VR Coaster Tusenfryd  Norway Vinterbro, Akershus
checkY Gletscherblitz Gletscherblitz Powered Coaster checkY March 24, 2018 Mack Rides VR Coaster Steinwasen Park  Germany Oberried, Baden-Württemberg
checkY Dream Catcher VR Dream Catcher Swinging Turns 2:44 600 checkY June 23, 2018 Vekoma VR Coaster Bobbejaanland  Belgium Lichtaart, Antwerp
checkY Eurosat Coastiality Eurosat - CanCan Coaster Indoor roller coaster 3:20 900 checkY September 13, 2018 Mack Rides MackMedia and VR Coaster Europa-Park  Germany Rust, Baden-Württemberg Coaster features separate stations for VR and non VR ride on the same roller coaster. VR riders enter the coaster train with VR headset already on.
checkY Den Hemmelige Verden Viktor Vandorm Sit-Down Coaster 750 checkY 2018 Zierer VR Coaster BonBon-Land  Denmark Holme-Olstrup, Sjælland
checkY Virtual Express Tibidabo Express Powered Coaster ☒N 2017 Zamperla VR Coaster Tibidabo  Spain Barcelona Similar film about "Schloss Balthasar" as at Europa-Park
checkY Crazy Bats Crazy Bats Enclosed roller coaster 4:00 1300 checkY June 25, 2019 Vekoma Ambient Entertainment Phantasialand  Germany Brühl Film about the three bats from the German film Monster Family
checkY Wilde Maus Wilde Maus XXL Wild Mouse 2:30 585 checkY Mack Rides VR Coaster Traveling  Germany
checkY VR Rollercoaster (高空VR过山车) VR Rollercoaster (高空VR过山车)[37] Junior Coaster 320 checkY 1996 Vekoma Oriental Pearl Tower  People's Republic of China Shanghai
checkY Hurricane 360 Hurricane 360 VR Youngstar Coaster 2:11 400 checkY Mack Rides Ambient Entertainment, DOF Robotics, VR Coaster and MackMedia Chimelong Paradise  People's Republic of China Guangzhou The same film which has formerly been used at Pegasus at Europa-Park

References[edit]

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