I love roller coasters. I love the feeling of forces acting on me and within my whole body, and being able to connect the real physical experience with analysis of measurements, maths, drawings, photos, videos and observations. Still, I found the Virtual reality (VR) coaster to be absolutely amazing, even standing on the ground in the Mack Rides stand at EAS15, when I reflected on the development From VR caves to augmented roller coaster reality. And I was not the only one. The numbers of VR coasters and simulations seems to have exploded between EAS16 and EAS15. In this post, I reflect on a few different realities from the EAS16 in Barcelona.
Virtual reality experiences
During the last afternoon of EAS16, I made a point of trying as many of the 3D virtual coaster experiences as possible, (skipping anything that involved shooting). I think I have to appoint the ride with Dante through Inferno at the RedRaion booth as my favourite among those I tried – a long ride, with many things happening along the way, and I could easily imagine that it would be even more amazing if the simulator chair had been replaced by a small roller coaster.
For fun, I also took my phone along in one virtual coasters, to collect accelerometer data using the Physics Toolbox Suite, well aware that a virtual heartline roll would not show up in the data – and the graph is too boring to show.
Having come that far in my reflections on the built-in shortcoming of virtual coasters, I discovered the robot-VR, where even the heartline roll would feel real. The queues were long, and I still have slightly queasy memories from Tom Tits science centre close to Stockholm where I rode all 6 programs of the rotor (without VR glasses), followed by a tour in the Rotor – all with a WDSS for data taking.
Combining a small real roller coaster with virtual reality opens many new possibilities for story telling – I could well imagine Dante’s Inferno tour being used like that to give a completely amazing experience. In these cases, the real experience is enhanced – augmented by the visual feed through the glasses
In a session Renew and revitalize – it doesn’t always have to be new Peggy Vereld from Bobbejaanland told about the VR addition to convert an existing coaster Revolution to a new scary immersive experience Mount Mara, and how it was received by guests as a truly new experience. For increased flow in the summertime, they were running alternating versions, both with and without the VR glasses.
Having read all the Asterix books, I love visiting Parc Asterix, discovering all the little quirky details bringing the 2D images from the book to an inspiring 3D reality.
However, I was really frustrated by a long talk at the EAS16, which was more of a sales pitch about how to make the TeleTubbies into an artifical 3D world, with lots of merchandise to sell. The learning claims related to the program seem to be somewhat dubious, as discussed e.g. in an early analysis: “The fact that children like something, or parents think they do, does not mean that it is educational, or even good for them. Children like candy, too.” Later research investigated whether young children could learn vocabulary from TV, and found little supporting evidence.
Before the opening of the EAS, I took part in the Safety Institute at the PortAventura world. A fascinating day, with quite a lot of enjoyable technical detail. The only disappointment was that I missed out on riding any of the coasters. I participated following a recommendation by David Eager (who did manage to sneak away to ride the Shambhala). We had the joy during EAS16 to have our second joint paper (Beyond velority and acceleration: jerk, snap and higher derivatives) accepted in the European Journal of Physics (Our first, on Trampolines, was selected as one of the highlights 2015 in Physics Education.)
In a fascinating session Renew and revitalize – it doesn’t always have to be new, Jakob Wahl talked about how Europa Park encouraged people to multiple visits, e.g. by expanding the number of seasons, and thematic weeks and Peggy Verels from Bobbejaanland talked about the benefits of adding VR to an existing coaster .
In a long afternoon session The Art of Storytelling and Creation, with New and Existing IP Margreet Papamichael started by showing numbers for different parks and brands, showing how parks benefited from Multi-gated resources (where additional gates could, e.g., be another park, a hotel, a water park or a conference center) and indications that entertainment value – price per hours that guests are paying/willing to pay – increased with more “gates”.
Numbers are always fascinating, and I also recall with much joy a talk from EAS15, where Pieter Cornelis demonstrated that it was possible to make quantitative models on return of investments in roller coasters and other rides.
Economic realities also influence educational programs, that come in many different shapes, as discussed in the session on The A to Z of B2B: How to Develop Edutainment Opportunities.