Samsung (SSNLF) is going all out to promote its Gear VR headsets, but the tech giant’s latest promotion could be its most unusual yet. Samsung has teamed with the Six Flags amusement parks to integrate virtual reality into some thrill rides.
The additional layer of technology, which will launch later this month initially in Arlington, Texas, will be integrated into nine rides consisting of six roller coasters and another three touting a “Superman virtual reality” experience.
“This remarkable technology is a definite game-changer for theme park rides and represents everything our brand stands for—delivering the most thrilling and innovative rides and attractions in the world,” said John Duffey, Six Flags (SIX) president and CEO, in a statement when the partnership was announced last week.
It’s a good idea—in theory. VR can transport roller coaster riders into other worlds, not to mention it is a feature quickly on the rise in tech circles. Showcasing Gear VR in such a popular arena could also boost sales for Samsung’s cutting edge product substantially.
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But in reality (the actual kind, not virtual) could present some significant speed bumps for both parties. Frankly, the biggest of those repercussions could be a nightmare scenario for the park’s janitorial staff.
We’re at the very beginning of the virtual reality movement, and Gear VR is one of the first products on the market. It can be an incredible thing to experience on stable ground, but it’s also jarring. A small percentage of first time users have reported to feel nauseated instantly upon wearing the headsets. Combine that the jostling of a roller coaster, and things could get real messy real fast.
Oculus (FB), Samsung’s partner on the Gear headset, had to be convinced to even approve the product’s release.
“There was a lot of tension between Samsung and Oculus about what constitutes the right VR product,” said Oculus CTO John Carmack at the Game Developer’s Conference last year. Complaints were minimal, so the companies decided to go with a wide release last holiday season. But even Carmack admitted the system isn’t perfect.
“You can get eyestrain,” Carmack explained. “You can make yourself sick if you do certain things. But the response has been a lot better than people expected…I’m kind of surprised we don’t have more Gear VR videos on YouTube of people vomiting.”
There’s also the practical matter of the headsets themselves. Installing them properly on people’s heads will take extra time. That could mean longer wait times for the rides, which on a hot summer day could mean virtual thrills results in some very real frustrated customers.