At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly old man who can't get any enjoyment out of life (which is normally David's job), I'm going to suggest that maybe roller coasters don't need technological add-ons in order to appeal to people. After all, they're roller coasters, gigantic masterpieces of engineering and physics that exist primarily for the purpose of entertainment, and secondarily for the purpose of making you empty your stomach of ill-advised theme park corn dogs. Do they really need to be tied into the never-ending cycle of incremental upgrades and improvements that typifies mobile technology?
Yes, yes they do, at least according to Six Flags Over Georgia. That's where "North America's first virtual reality roller coaster" is now open for the enjoyment of park-goers. The Dare Devil Dive ride combines a fairly typical and short roller coaster with Samsung Gear VR headsets, which play a sort of arcade rail shooter game for riders as the cars make their way around the track. It allows the riders to indulge in the fantasy of being Will Smith shooting down aliens in his fighter jet in Independence Day. Riders, or perhaps the better term would be "players," can even shoot at said aliens by tapping the plastic side of their headsets.
Which begs the question: why the fantasy? The point of virtual reality is to create a convincing illusion that you're somewhere interesting or exciting. But the entire point of a roller coaster is to be exciting - heck, a virtual roller coaster ride is one of the cliché demos for every new generation of VR tech. Piling a video game on top of an experience that people already go out of their way to get to seems like it can only muddy the sensation instead of enhancing it. It's like mixing all those flavors of cola at the soda fountain: in theory sixteen different kinds of soda should be a taste explosion, but mixing all those different flavors simply means you can't properly taste any of them.
The decision to make the Dare Devil Dive and its VR accompaniment probably has something to do with the way theme parks live and die on novelty, continually relying on new and exciting ways to whip people around at insane speeds to keep them coming back at least once a year. A virtual reality-enhanced roller coaster is the ride equivalent of, say, a phone with an unnecessary curved screen.
Or maybe I'm just getting old. Perhaps I lack the child-like wonder to appreciate the blend of cutting-edge technology meeting more conventional forms of entertainment - the two test subjects in the Theme Park Review video above seem to be enjoying themselves. Maybe my concern that those $800 phone-headset combos will go flying off the riders' heads and smack into some poor schmuck on the ground is overruling my sense of fun. Maybe I shouldn't judge Six Flags for simply trying to find new ways to make roller coasters exciting.
Nope. This is still dumb. But if it's your kind of dumb, Six Flags will be rolling out similar rides to all of its parks in the near future.
- Theme Park Review