If we learnt anything from our childhood, it's that water and electronics do not mix. But this simple life lesson hasn't stopped a German theme park from adding virtual reality headsets to its waterslide.
Imaginatively called the VRSlide, the ride is now open at Galaxy Erding, a water park not far from Munich in southern Germany. The headsets are custom-made for the ride and are powered by a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone running bespoke software.
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Riders are given the choice of three VR 'worlds' to pick from when they reach the front of the queue, including Space, Snow and Sky (pictured below). Each world takes the rider on a journey through a video game-like environment, as they weave between trees or snow banks, and soar through the sky chasing butterflies.
The headsets are stored on a rack of wireless chargers, making it easy for staff to pick one out and hand it to the customer before they launch themselves down the slide. The ride lasts for approximately 35 seconds and costs €2 ($2.33); between the ride opening in mid-March and late-June, it had attracted 36,000 people and earned about $84,000 in revenue, according to MIT Technology Review.
This is one of three environments riders see in the VR headsetBallast VR
Thankfully, the headsets are water-resistant enough to survive the ride and being submerged in shallow water. To help keep the visual experience in sync with the rider's location on the slide, the Galaxy S8 is programmed to listen out to ultrasonic chirping emitted along the slide.
The phone also monitors the rider's inertial movement to understand their weight and progress down the slide, then uses artificial intelligence to adjust their location in the virtual world to keep their view in sync with what they can feel.
Although this could be the first time VR has been used on a waterslide, the technology has been incorporated into roller coasters for some time. The Superman ride at Six Flags in Maryland gained VR back in 2016, giving the 15-year-old attraction a tech-filled shot in the arm. Over in the UK, the Alton Towers theme park also installed its first VR roller coaster, called Galactica, in 2016.