It’s tough for amusement parks to know what to do with their old roller coaster rides. Once you’ve built a new one offering a more thrilling ride, then the chances are the old one will quickly lose its appeal. And there must be a very limited market for second hand ones. (We checked on eBay and couldn’t find a single one). Luckily for those park owners who don’t have the financial muscle of the Dubai parks, help is at hand in the shape of virtual reality.
Kraken, a seventeen year old veteran roller coaster based at SeaWorld Orlando, has just re-opened following an extensive refurbishment. Thrill seekers now queuing up there are given a Virtual Reality (VR) headset and board the train. But the ride now takes them underwater where they dodge prehistoric sea creatures, such as pliosaurs and avoid a large tentacled monster (the Kraken). During their trip, their imaginary journey matches the roller coaster’s movement along the tracks.
Apparently, there is a lot of technology involved in ensuring that the riders don’t suffer from VR-induced nausea. This is when what the thrill seekers sees doesn’t match their movement. At that point they experience ‘cue conflict’ when the body gets confused by the mixed signals it receives from the eyes and ears. The good news is that this problem has now been sorted. And the even better news is it’s been sorted by technology invented by a small British company.
Their technology is helping to breathe new life into old amusement parks. The hope is that is won’t just be restricted to pimping up roller coasters but could be applied to drop towers too. That’s when riders experience several seconds of free-fall before de-accelerating to a safe stop. The mind boggles at what sort of imaginary journey can be used on these rides.