Some of the most popular apps for virtual reality are VR roller coasters. The user can experience a thrill ride from the comfort and safety of their own home. But it’s also possible to enhance an actual roller coaster with virtual reality. This requires syncing a VR headset with the track of the actual ride. On this page we will list the 10 best uses of VR in theme parks.

How does VR work on a roller coaster?

A ride in a theme park typically uses carts that transport people along a predefined track with curves, loopings and other exciting surprises. The passenger feels the wind and G-forces while watching the track in front of them.

By syncing a VR headset to the motion of the track you can play an animation that provides a perfect match to the physical experience. The rides are timed to the exact (milli)second, with syncing technology the animation in the VR headset will correspond with the movement creating a completely new experience.

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Why virtual rides at home provide a limited experience

As stated in the introduction, roller coaster apps for VR headsets are a dime a dozen. It’s pretty straightforward to create an animation on ‘rails’. However, from a couch the user can’t feel the wind or the G-forces that a real roller coaster provides. There’s a disconnect between the visuals and the physical experience which can lead to nausea. When syncing a VR headset to an actual ride all senses work together to create an immersive experience.

10 best uses of VR in theme parks

So without further ado our top ten list. There are many more great rides where syncing a VR headset creates a complete unique experience, check out the theme parks in your area for their selection. Some of the rides mentioned here were only available for a limited timeframe.

1. Coastality

This is more of a brand than one particular ride. Coastality designs VR experiences for existing rides, and also offers a home experience using mobile VR headsets. The virtual reality rides are optional and cost more than a regular ride without the use of a virtual reality headset.

2. Dæmonen

This roller coaster in Tivoli Gardens, Denmark, has been operational since 2004. In 2017 an optional virtual reality experience was added for an up-charge. The experience while using a Samsung Gear VR headset includes dragons, demons and other elements based on Chinese mythology.

3. Galactica

The “Air” ride at Alton Towers in Alton, UK, was renamed Galactica for the introduction of virtual reality. This feature was added to the steel flying roller coaster in 2016. This ride is technically impressive, the opening was postponed for four years because of the difficulty in the design.

4. Ghost Train

This is a stationary experience without loops and miles of track, but the use of VR headsets makes you believe otherwise. This ride was created to be scary and immersive, and was designed by the famous British ‘mind manipulator’ Derren Brown.

5. Final Fantasy XR

This ride is located in Universal Studios, Japan, the XR presentation complements the existing Final Fantasy theme. Visual Works, the FX company from game developer Square Enix produced the visuals for this experience. The enhanced version was available for a limited period, even though this brand is enormously popular in Japan.

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6. Iron Dragon

This roller coaster with suspended carts has been a staple of the Cedar Point theme park in Ohio since 1987. In the following decades some features were added and the color scheme changed to yellow and orange. In 2016 a pilot started using synced VR headsets for a specific time frame each day, which was later expanded to a permanent option.

7. Linnunrata eXtra

This ride is located in Helsinki, Finland, and is part of the Linnanmäki theme park. The ride opened in 2000 and changed themes in 2004. It’s built in a water tower and offers twenty seats. Linnunrata is the Finnish word for the “Milky Way”, a theme that fits well with virtual reality. In the 2016 season this eXtra option was added to the ride.

8. Shock Wave

During the launch In 1978 Shock Wave was the tallest roller coaster in the world. It did not retain this title for long, two weeks later The Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens opened with an even taller design. Still, the ride remains a popular attraction, that was overhauled in 2008. In 2016 Six Flags added a virtual reality upgrade named The New Revolution, using an alien invasion as the topic for the enhanced visuals.

9. Superman The Ride

Six Flags is a pioneer in enhanced rides, this Superman roller coaster is an early example of using syncing VR headsets. In the storyline Superman has to save a city from bots deployed by arch nemesis Lex Luthor. So the  virtual presentation is intertwined with the original theme of the ride.

10. The New Revolution Galactic Attack

This ride is available at several Six Flags locations in the US. Samsung Gear VR headsets were used, great care was taken to provide a latency free experience to match the new VR visuals with the actual movement of the coaster.

Bonus: Proto Factory

Experience prototypes of the world’s first car, locomotive or hot air balloon and how they are brought to life using virtual reality. Visitors are able to see and feel how these prototypes behaved and were controlled using simulators, motion platforms and VR headsets. For a new attraction, a subterranean vehicle will simulate a trip to the center of the earth. This attraction uses a motion platform which needs to be synchronized with 15 VR headsets at the same time.

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