Roller Coasters Ride Into Dizzying Realm of Virtual Reality, by Daniel Michaels

RUST, Germany—For roller-coaster fans bored by loops and drops, design professor Thomas Wagner offers the extra twist of flying dragons, battles with aliens or a midair rescue by Superman.

They can all be experienced at newly equipped amusement parks—in virtual reality.

Mr. Wagner last year launched the first VR gear for roller coasters in partnership with Mack Rides GmbH, one of the world’s top producers of amusement park rides. This year Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has been introducing the headsets, which use Samsung Electronics Co.’s phones, across its 18 North American parks.

A competing system, developed by British 3-D and VR studio Figment Productions Ltd., opened at an English amusement park in March.

Riders wearing the specially reinforced VR headgear are immersed in a fantasyland where they soar, plunge and twist in sync with a coaster’s motion.
Theme-park operators are enthusiastic because the innovation lets them repackage old rides digitally, without the cost of building or refurbishing a giant physical structure. That, in turn, can entice repeat visits from potentially jaded thrill-seekers.

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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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