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UK's Alton Towers Introduces First Ever Galaxy-Exploring Virtual …

The Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, UK, announced that it would unveil[1] the world s first rollercoaster dedicated entirely to virtual reality. It will put together the effects of a typical rollercoaster, with the sensation of taking a journey into space riders will wear VR goggles which will project scenes from outer space, while the roller coaster s movements will provide the illusion that the rider is actually flying through space. The story of the revolutionary ride focuses on the Galactica space tourism company, which takes passengers aka “Galactinauts” across galaxies. Set to be opened up in April 2016, the ride will transport the Galactinauts riding the coaster into space via a 10-foot portal. The Galactica Tours website[2] reveals that customers will experience the best that space has to offer, from Nero 5 s lava lakes and the Great Orion Nebula s heavenly clouds to Kepler 9 s frozen landscapes. Riders will even get to see a new star being born, which should be a fairly informative addition to the knowledge of riders brave enough to climb aboard the ride. The track itself is 840 meters long, with the height of drop measuring at 20 meters. At the beginning of the ride, the seats swing by 90 degrees to face the ground, adding to the rider s illusion of flying. The 189-second ride eventually reaches a maximum speed of 75km per hour, and ends up exerting a total G-force of 3.5Gs. The G force exceeds that of a real-life rocket launch, hence culminating in a proper wind-in-the-hair experience.

The experience is the handiwork of 3D video designers Merlin Magic Making and Figment, and the virtual reality world is portrayed to riders through a custom VR headset; according to Digital Trends[3], the company simply modified Samsung s Gear VR and put a smartphone inside to project the VR images. Figment added a crucial improvement by introducing positional tracking to the mix, but the company simply did that by strapping the rider tightly to his or her seat. This ensures that only the head can move freely; couple that with the perfect synchronization promised by the company, and the user is properly transported to the intergalactic world of the ride. Synchronization is also important to avoid the problem of motion sickness, which some riders are bound to have in general. Some individuals also experience motion sickness with virtual reality, and Galactica counters that through special sensors that blend the roller coaster s movement and the VR video to provide a perfectly harmonious collaboration. According to Figment s Simon Reveley, the VR rollercoaster project has been under construction since 2014, which precedes the time when the VR industry really took off. The company has timed the release well, and it is amusing to note that the initial test phases saw the company strapping individuals equipped with VR sets to office chairs and pushing the chairs around. It was only when Figment met with Alton Towers to loan a rollercoaster to test out its product, that the company discovered that the two shared a common goal.

The preview video reveals ultra-advanced graphics that might even be beyond high-end console and PC games something which should draw customers by the tenfold. As Digital Times reported, even the famous rollercoaster designer John Wardley called it one of the best rides he had ever been on. With reviews like that building up to the release, it might not be a surprise if riders cannot get a seat on what is bound to be one of the standout displays of the potential of virtual reality. This is certainly a different way to introduce virtual reality to the general audience, and tech giants such as Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corporation and Samsung can perhaps take a leaf out of Alton Towers book.


  1. ^ announced that it would unveil (www2.altontowers.com)
  2. ^ Galactica Tours website (www.galacticatours.com)
  3. ^ Digital Trends (www.digitaltrends.com)

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