Theme parks were home to virtual reality experiences well before the current uptick in technology and popularity. Indoor interactive theme park Disney Quest, for example, had a multi-player feature with players wearing heavy VR helmets suspended from a raised fixture. In it, you fought with lightsaber-like weapons while riding hovering vehicles. There’s even a near-identical VR setup where you ride a flying carpet through the world of Alladin, but there’s no weapon to use. Undergoing $175 million worth of upgrades, Orlando Sentinel reports that the SeaWorld in Orlando, FL is introducing a new implementation of VR for the location that’s been seen on Six Flag’s Superman The Ride: wearing VR headsets on an actual roller coaster.
SeaWorld Orlando will be adding virtual reality to a ride that already exists, giving riders the virtual option on the Kraken roller coaster. SeaWorld has not confirmed if the video will be fully 3D or not, but it will include the Kraken along with other mythical and prehistoric creatures. Despite other examples already existing, the wheels are turning as they prepare their own unique system.
“We’re developing sort of our own technology on how we’re going to pull this off,” said Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Entertainment’s vice president of theme park experience design. “It’s nothing that you’ve seen from other parks.”
With Six Flags already using VR on some rides and planning to retrofit a handful of other coasters, it remains to be seen just how different SeaWorld Orlando’s VR coaster can be. Both Six Flags and SeaWorld are using virtual reality as a means to compete with more advanced theme parks, essentially making up for a lack of physical footprint with virtual space. Pacific Asset Management analyst Bob Boyd says this allows them to push against competition “at a budget that is reasonable for them.”
SeaWorld Orlando will be improving other installations such as the Dolphin Nursery while also adding the Seven Seas Festival and a summer night show called Electric Ocean. All new additions should be rolling out over the next few months.