Virtual reality set to add scary new dimension to theme park rides

As if traditional roller coasters weren’t scary enough, VR headsets are set to transform theme park rides into a fully immersive world of non-stop action

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 December, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 December, 2015, 8:21pm

It’s beginning to look like 2016 will be the year that virtual reality takes theme parks by storm, with plans for nine VR coasters in the works and VR dark rides, thrill rides and haunted mazes already on the drawing board.

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Canada’s Wonderland amusement park outside Toronto will add VR headsets to the Thunder Run roller coaster in 2016 after testing the devices on the ride during the off season, according to company officials. Thunder Run riders wearing VR headsets will fly on the back of a fire-breathing dragon above a medieval village and experience an imaginary corkscrew element on the mine train coaster.

VR headsets will likely be added to another coaster at one of the 11 locations in the amusement park chain, says chief executive Matt Ouimet during a recent interview. “It’ll be a different type of coaster because we want to see about the different types of physics,” he says.

Test runs are expected to start soon on the unnamed second coaster. Ouimet eventually envisages riders being able to buy a package of VR coaster rides with multiple storylines.

Cedar Fair is partnering on the upgrades with Mack Rides, which has been working with virtual reality design and engineering firm VR Coasters. Mack has been testing the VR technology on the Alpenexpress mine train coaster at Germany’s Europa Park.

The 360-degree 3D experience synchronises with the motion of the coaster to fully immerse riders in a virtual world of non-stop action. The trick is in syncing the steep drops, hills and G forces of the ride with the visuals on the screen. So far, the tests have found that coaster riders don’t experience motion sickness while wearing the VR headsets.

LA Times