Back in January it was announced that one of the UK’s top theme parks would soon be launching a VR rollercoaster. That ride is now running, but it hasn’t gotten off to a great start.
Galactica, the new coaster at Merlin Entertainment’s Alton Towers in Staffordshire, has been running for about a month now, but yesterday left riders hanging, suspended in mid-air for around 30 minutes. Just a few moments into a run of the mill race around the track, while the carriage was still climbing its first ramp, the ride came to a halt, leaving fans strapped in place, dangling with a HMD still attached to their face. Those HMDs – special versions of Samsung’s Gear VR – were showing a sci-fi adventure through different galaxies that’s synchronised with the rollercoaster’s track, making the rider feel as if they’re really there.
So our day out at Alton Towers has come to an abrupt halt. Literally. Got stuck on a bloody ride
— Meg O’Dea (@megodea92) May 2, 2016
The issue was reportedly triggered by a water sensor that had malfunctioned due to heavy rain, which continued to pour as passengers remained helpless. They were at least able to remove their headsets, though, so they wouldn’t have to add simulation sickness to their woes. As you can see above, passengers were able to tweet during their incident, and claimed to have been well informed throughout. After 30 minutes, they were returned to the station, had their tickets revalidated and were given fast passes to beat the queues.
The mishap is far from ideal for the park, which is already facing serious scrutiny after a major accident on its Simler ride last June. A crash between carriages seriously injured four people, two of which had to have their legs amputated.
— Dave (@Duffy4125) April 16, 2016
Alton Towers isn’t the only UK park using VR, as another major Merlin Entertainment site, Thorpe Park, is using the HTC Vive for a VR Ghost Train experience. That isn’t a coaster, though. Could Alton Towers’ accident this week cause others to think more carefully about implementing such attractions in the future? In reality, the mishap really isn’t anything to do with VR itself, though it does perhaps send a warning about the need to be able to take people out of VR mid-ride.