With the upcoming releases of cutting edge headsets like the PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, 2016 is expected to be a breakthrough year for virtual reality. Now it looks like one of the year’s most memorable VR experiences might happen not at home, but at a theme park, where thrill-seekers will have the chance to strap in for the ride of their lives.
The British amusement park Alton Towers has just unveiled a new ride called “Galactica” that brings the roller coaster ride experience to virtual reality. After strapping into the ride, riders don the Gear VR headsets that will lead them through their intergalactic adventure. For three minutes, passengers will soar through a virtual space landscape as their bodies—lying face-down in the physical world—are sent around a track. The ride’s narrative centers around a fictional space tourism company called Galactica, taking each rider on their first trip through space, starting with a thrilling launch through a warp tunnel into the unknown.
Motion sickness is a concern with any type of VR, and was a major consideration when figuring out how to apply the technology to a thrill ride. To tackle the issue, the coaster was outfitted with shoulder straps that will make it difficult for passengers to look left or right. This limits the rider’s individual movements and leaves the motion to the ride, which is something the park can control. The passengers' heads will be free to move up or down however, and the park claims that sensors on the gear will ensure the visuals are always perfectly matched up to the rider’s point of view. And to prevent any expensive equipment from falling off mid-ride and raining down on unsuspecting parkgoers, an advanced tethering system has been developed to keep the headsets in place. Galactica will be ready for takeoff when the theme park reopens this April.