Arts & Culture News

Six Flags' New Roller Coaster Uses Virtual Reality

Six Flags Over Texas may have found an answer for people who are afraid of roller coasters. The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster is 200 feet high and moves at high speed with twists and turns. But a smart phone strapped across your eyes will put you in a virtual world with 360-degree views synchronized to the movement of the coaster. If you think you are in a jet, you can’t be afraid of riding a roller coaster.

After you fasten your seatbelt and put on the virtual reality headset, you have already entered another world as you wait for the ride to start. You are a pilot in a fighter jet waiting in a hangar. Look down and you will see your hands and legs and your co-pilot sitting below you. Look to your sides and notice other jets and pilots. And your eyes are turrets pointed at whatever you are looking at. Tap the side of your headset to open fire.

As the roller coaster starts its slow ascension, your jet is going up an elevator. This is a very different feeling than a roller coaster. Imagine a video game you step into. But you don’t just see it, you feel it. Once you get to the top, the roller coaster speeds up and, as the pilot of a fighter jet, you are flying off the edge of a building into a futuristic city under attack by aliens for air-to-air combat. This is an incredible sight. You are suddenly looking down at the rooftops of skyscrapers with other aircraft flying around you.

The perfect synchronicity between the coaster and the virtual reality world is what makes the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster so thrilling. This precision also prevents motion sickness. When the roller coaster descends, the fighter pilot may be flying under a bridge or just above a city street between buildings. When it loops, you are firing at the mother ship and avoiding the drones protecting it.

One has to admire the ridiculous scale of the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster. A virtual reality headset paired with something small and hydraulic, perhaps comparable to a coin-operated kiddie ride, could probably do the trick. But using a roller coaster definitely makes this an extreme visual experience you are not likely to forget.

For a couple years, Six Flags has been working on adding virtual reality to their rides. At first, it seemed like the only option was somehow strapping a laptop into the coaster for an overly complex design. But once Samsung released smart phones with virtual reality capability, the idea became much more feasible. The system calibrates based on the rotation of the roller coaster’s wheels and sends a Bluetooth signal to the headset. It also knows if you are sitting near the front or back of the roller coaster and if you are sitting on the left or right.

This technology makes the virtual reality component very specific to the roller coaster, but also to each rider. For example, someone sitting in the front may be looking down while someone in the back is looking up. The system sends an advanced signal to one person and a delayed signal to another, allowing people to see the same things at different times.

There is a much simpler version of this new type of roller coaster at Universal Studios in Japan. But Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Over Georgia are currently the only amusement parks in America with virtual reality coasters. Six Flags Over Georgia uses a similar storyline, but it is specifically designed for that roller coaster. Six Flags also has more virtual reality coasters in the works in other cities that will use Superman concepts.

The New Virtual Reality Coaster is a new kind of fun. It creates a very different sensation, and you have to try it in order to understand because it defies description. It’s just as thrilling as a roller coaster, but manages to create a detachment from fears many have about this particular type of amusement park attraction. This isn’t something that makes people nauseous. The virtual reality is immersive and more terrifying than a roller coaster, but you ultimately know it’s not real. And you can’t see how high you are on a roller coaster.

The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster is open for technical rehearsals exclusively for season pass holders and members during spring break, March 10-20. It will open to all guests beginning March 26 for a limited time only. 
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Jeremy Hallock