Virtual reality just found its best use yet: theme park rides

Alton Towers: Galactica

I am a firm believer in the idea that virtual reality is going to change how we do many things in life, from entertainment to socialising (especially now that Mark Zuckerberg has a whole team working out how Facebook-style social fits with Oculus-style VR). Yes, there are big barriers to adoption – the headsets are expensive, look ridiculous and sometimes dystopian, and if you’re not a gamer, you probably don’t want to buy one yet – but all those factors will be swept aside when we see such amazing things being done with VR that we can’t help but want in.

And one of those things just arrived: virtual reality theme park rides. Alton Towers has announced that it’s re-working its famous Air rollercoaster into Galactica, a virtual reality experience that will emulate what it feels like to travel through space.

Derren Brown for Thorpe Park

Meanwhile, Thorpe Park has enlisted the mind-blowing illusionist Derren Brown to devise a new ghost ride that opens this spring. Using virtual reality elements alongside live acting, and the eerie setting of an abandoned Victorian train carriage, the ride will have a choose-your-own-adventure feel too, with twelve different journeys and two different endings possible. After the ride, you’ll be swapping experiences with everyone around you to see what else could have happened to you.

Virtual reality is such a visceral medium that extreme reactions are a perfect fit – in VR film-making, it’s the horror films that have had people jumping out of their seats and raving about them the most. I can’t wait to see how theme parks and other experience specialists (from museums and theatres to retailers) will do when they start playing with the technology more extensively.

EXPERIENCE DESIGN: New report Live Video Games explores the thrilling world of escape rooms, theme park innovation and immersive entertainment. Want to read it? Join WGSN.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.