Samsung and Six Flags to launch first VR roller coasters

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation and Samsung Electronics America recently announced a partnership which names Samsung as the “Official Technology Partner” of the world’s largest regional theme park company. The partnership includes the debut of ground-breaking experiences coming to nine Six Flags theme parks— North America’s first Virtual Reality (VR) roller coasters, using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus.

The launch comes less than a month after I recently experienced a Samsung VR roller coaster at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Consistent with theme park reality, you line up patiently until it’s your turn – over an hour in my case. You then are seated in a special seat with a hidden motor beneath it, and you strap on your seat belt and don a Samsung Gear VR headset. My experience is still slightly blurry, due to my glasses-wearing, but without them I couldn’t see anything at all. 

Loud music starts and an image appears of a Six Flags amusement park in California. All of a sudden, your seat is moving and you are in the first car of a roller coaster train. You are above the trees and you can look all around you – you can see the sky and get a birds’ eye view of the amusement park. The train starts to go up a hill and you are climbing the tracks.

Samsung’s 4D VR roller coaster at Mobile World Congress.

The adrenaline kicks in as all of a sudden, whoosh! Your train drops down the roller coaster track with you in it. It’s not as visceral as in real life – your stomach drops only a little – but the 4D experience does make you feel like you’re on a real roller coaster ride. Your chair moves and you are mildly tossed and turned. I left the experience a little dizzy but in good spirits. 

How will it play out at Six Flags?

Some of Six Flags’ most popular coasters will be equipped to allow riders who are wearing Samsung Gear VR headsets. Visitors still physically go on a moving roller coaster, but the VR headset provides hyperreality — for example, riders may be transported to the future to save the world from aliens. And they can even fire virtual weapons in what Samsung is touting as the “first-ever interactive gameplay technology on a roller coaster.”

“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 President and CEO. 

“What makes this partnership so compelling for consumers and the broader tech industry alike is that both companies are committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible – and bringing a VR coaster to life is certainly a new and thrilling proposition,” said Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer at Samsung Electronics America.

My verdict? If you’re already lining up to experience a roller coaster, then definitely give the VR experience a try, especially if you are already a keen gamer. VR and AR are the future of entertainment, so get ready to strap in and ride.

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