Oculus Rift Brings Amazing Virtual Reality Experience To Roller Coasters

By Nick Venable | 7 years ago

So, I don’t think we need to hype up the amazingness of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, do we? The company is constantly excelling at creating some truly unique experiences, and the Augmented Thrill Ride Project is no different. Here, the designers, engineers and computer whizzes (or whomever) have created an immersive experience that takes roller coaster riders to the next level. Take a look at the video below and get your mind blown and your stomach turned.

Thomas Wagner, who conceived this mind-boggling idea, is a professor of Virtual Design at the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern in Germany. Back in February, he got in touch with German roller coaster manufacturer Mack Rides, who granted Wagner the use of two roller coasters for the purposes of research and development of the Oculus Rift version of a theme park ride. (The rides were Europa-Park’s Blue Fire and Pegasus.) Through well over a hundred test rides, Wagner and his team created some wild and crazy virtual travels, and now they’re able to publicly share them with the world.

Coaster purists may reject the idea of substituting the physical track for a digital one, and weak-stomached riders may think that this sounds ten times more nauseating than a regular ride. But Wagner found out quite a few interesting things in doing his tests. First, riders experienced no motion sickness due to the perfect sychronicity between the what they saw and what they felt, as well as visual aides created to balance the vertigo felt during a ride’s initial lift. That’s usually the worst part of the ride for me, for some reason, and Wagner’s team figured out that by making the visuals appear to being moving horizontal instead of vertical, it tricked the riders’ brains.

But it’s in the actual creation of the tracks themselves that the magic happens. By taking away the physical appearance of the ride in front of you, the Oculus Rift eliminates expectations and can present a multitude of surprises for riders, even those who know the coasters well. You can be taken into a world you’ve never imagined. Either in the air…

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Or on land…

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Or even under water…

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They also figured out that just because you were going one way on the ride doesn’t mean you have to be going that way within the virtual world, as the mind can be fooled into almost anything. You can read more about the project and Wagner’s work on the website.

When I was younger, I received as a gift a VHS copy of America’s Greatest Roller Coaster Thrills in 3-D, which was effectively the greatest 3-D experience I’d had in my life up until that point. But this project makes that video look embarrassingly infantile. You know what ride I’m going to need the Oculus Rift for? That bizarro “4-D” Batman ride that Six Flags will debut next year, which might as well already have the nickname “Vomit-o-tron.”

Until I get to experience either one of these things, I guess I’ll just have to settle for putting on a blindfold and driving my Honda through town.