I’ve been on a good number of roller coasters in my day and generally love riding on them. So when Network World Cool Tools Editor Keith Shaw and I were researching the story of Six Flags New England introducing virtual reality headsets on their star Superman ride, I knew I wanted to experience it for myself.
The ride is incredible, even without the VR headset: It’s got a 220-foot drop, 5,000+ feet of track and it goes 77 miles per hour. It’s a trill-lovers paradise.
+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Virtual Flying with Superman: How Six Flags added even more thrills to its top roller coaster | Superman the Virtual Reality Ride, in pictures | First-person reaciton to Superman VR Ride +
The VR headsets are placed over your eyes and tightened across the back of your head. My initial reaction upon putting it on is that it’s a completely immersive experience. All you could see is the digital world being displayed on the Samsung phone inside the headset. You can’t see the roller coaster track, you can’t see the person sitting next to you, you can’t see the other people on the ride screaming their heads off.
For me, it was almost slightly claustrophobic. Once the large lap restraint was locked into place I lost my sense of place; I didn’t know where I was on the ride, whether I would be able to tell if the coaster was moving or whether it was just the VR video.
As the ride started up the steep ascent the video graphics were really cool. It’s amazing how well synchronized they are. I loved the storyline of Superman and Lex Luther battling it out while the coaster is zooming across the track.
By the time it got to the end of the ride though – a full two and a half minutes later – I was ready to take the headset off. I was even feeling a little queasy, which doesn't normally happen to me on roller coasters.
Don’t get me wrong – it was an incredible experience. But riding a roller coaster as intense as Superman three times in an hour, which is what we did for this story and video shoot, is quite intense even for someone who considers themselves a coaster enthusiast.
Keith seemed to love the coaster and even did the VR twice. What was the difference between Keith and me? For one, Keith has a lot more experience using virtual reality headsets. I’ve used them before, but not to a significant extent. I think the combination of riding the coaster three times in an hour, combined with my little experience in VR made my knees shake a little bit.
With that being said, I’m glad I tried it, and if you like Coasters or VR, I would certainly recommend trying it too. Just be prepared!
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