On Six Flags’ virtual reality coaster, the ride is just half the thrill, by Cory Takahashi | NPR

At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster hurtles you up, down and around — while you’re wearing VR goggles.

My interest in this ride is a little different from Magic Mountain’s core demo of teen and 20-something thrill-seekers. I’m a professor at Syracuse University and have a fascination with virtual reality. I’ve experimented with nearly everything. But a VR roller coaster, well, that’s something new.

As I walk up to the ride, I look like a fish out of water with my audio gear, glasses and wingtip shoes. High school students Dylan George and Azael Fregoso approach me.

“Any anxieties?” I ask them.

“I’m more excited than scared,” George says. “I don’t know, it all depends on the ride, how intense it is.”

“I’m terrified,” Fregoso admits.

Still, we get on the coaster. Ride supervisor Tori Gillett fits me for the VR headset, which secures a smartphone in front of my eyes.

“Chin up, please,” Gillett says. “And what do you see?”

“I see turrets — I see gun turrets,” I answer.

“So remember, on your right-hand side of your goggles, use your pointing finger to shoot the gun,” Gillett says.

I can see out of the cockpit of an aircraft I’m about to fly. As the countdown to liftoff begins, I’m struck with terror: I heard and felt the lap-bar lock into place, but I can’t see whether I’ve fastened my seat belt.

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