Virtual Reality and rollercoasters were always a weird mix. They’ve been around for a long time, even if they haven’t quite been virtual reality until recently: You know, those machines in arcades that sit you in a chair in front of a large television screen that plays a video from a rollercoaster and jolts the chair around a little? The experience was always a bit underwhelming, always unable to mimic the feeling of the air rushing by your face, and the real, authentic “oh-sh*t” vertigo you got when coming off of a real rollercoaster drop. But these VR slides might be able to get that feeling a little bit closer to reality.
VRSlide, a recently opened exhibit in Galaxy Erding, the EU’s largest waterpark, claims to be the first “fully-immersive” virtual reality waterslide.
The VRSlide has a few advantages going for it over the traditional VR coaster: First is the massive investment, with a large collection of mostly-waterproof VR headsets available exclusively for the event, designed to fit snugly upon one’s head and to keep from slipping off during intense turns. Which brings us to the second advantage: This VRSlide doesn’t have to worry about simulating motion in the same way previous virtual rides did because it’s an actual waterslide. Park-goers will board an inner tube and slide down a very real (If fairly slow) waterslide, but the VR headset they wear will allow the things they see to transport them to another dimension.
The slides are digitally realized using an impressive array of sensors set up all around these slides. The headsets also feature a strong signal that links them with servers in the park, and have the ability to recharge wirelessly while resting on their mount, which allows for a full rubber design on the exterior to keep the device fully waterproof.
While it is still unknown how many different VR environments will be available for riders to see, the short trailer linked above hints at an arctic setting with some kind of alien creature and a ride set on a foreign world that takes passengers through a bizarre purplish cave and passes them by odd alien fauna.
It’s an impressive bit of tech to be sure, but will certainly be an experiment that either makes or breaks itself in the next few weeks. Despite all the precautions that have been taken, this whole setup is extremely vulnerable to a serious error that could ruin the entire experience.
The wireless connection is particularly worrisome. Paired with a lot of very real movement, any kind of input lag on the waterproof headsets could create vomit-inducing sicknesses from viewers. And when one person vomits down a waterslide, that’s a waterslide that’s going to be closed for the rest of the day. With hundreds of people going down these slides, its very possible for a single error to shut the whole event down early – or for someone to discover they have a weak stomach when it comes to virtual reality.
Not to mention, virtual reality can be quite confusing for those who’ve never seen it before. Despite the best of warnings by park staff, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be at least a few people who flip over their tubes while going down. This kind of mishap could incur thousands of dollars worth of damages with a broken headset, and its uncertain whether the costs of such damages would fall on the passenger or the park.
Also, as a side note, what exactly is so boring about a waterslide that someone decides to invest thousands of dollars in research and investment, constructing a hi-tech sensor system, just to digitize that experience as well? Last time I checked, waterslides were pretty cool on their own.
Featured Image Via 75Central Photography