Space & Innovation

First VR Roller Coaster to Launch with Real G Force

Have some Dramamine handy: The world's first VR rollercoaster is set to open in the UK this spring. Continue reading →

The spaceflight might be fake, but the G forces will be real. When the world's first virtual reality roller coaster opens this spring in the United Kingdom, riders get to experience the power of an actual rocket launch.

The Galactica ride is set to take off in April at the Alton Towers amusement park in Staffordshire. Two years and several million British pounds in the making, Galactica outfits riders with virtual reality headsets and then sends them into space.

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Passengers - or "Galactinauts" - ride a rollercoaster while the VR headsets display a spaceflight simulation. The idea is that they're being sent into outerspace, where they get to explore the universe. An artificial intelligence system called Eve guides riders throughout the "flight."

Initially, passengers get plunged into space "with a G force more powerful than a real rocket launch," according to the Alton Towers press release.

That's not virtual. The ride has a maximum G force of 3.5. Real astronauts experience around 3 during launch when the main engines ignite.

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To add to the flying sensation, passengers will ride the 2,760-foot track positioned on their backs. Watch the ride teaser here:

click to play video

This is the same park that's planning a roller coaster restaurant for May. I'd rather check out their Haunted Hollow or Battle Galleons, given a choice. Fast-moving rides aren't my thing. Once, during a spinning ride at the local fair, the operator asked if we wanted to go faster. I shouted "Nooooo!" But we did anyway.

Statistically speaking, driving to a theme park is probably more of a safety risk than riding a roller coaster there. I'd rather keep my lunch, though. Nobody needs to see those curly fries again.

This past week in Las Vegas, thousands of people attended the Consumer Electronics Show, where exhibitors showed off the latest in electronic devices. Among the technologies trending were virtual reality gadgets. From goggles to full-body suits to omni-directional treadmills, here's a look at the latest advances in virtual reality.

Microsoft's HoloLens is a wearable holographic system that works with Windows 10. It allows people to project apps onto a variety of surfaces and use them to visualize data, CAD renderings and more.

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The long-awaited release date of the Oculus Rift system has finally arrived. Looks like the VR goggles will ship in March at a cost of about $599. Pre-orders available now.

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At the Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung showed off its Gear VR, an Oculus headset that accommodates a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The company also demonstrated Rink, a pair of handheld, gesture-based controllers meant to be used with the Samsung Gear VR.

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Look out gamers. PlayStation announced that it's working on more than 100 new games for its forthcoming virtual reality headset.

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Google Cardboard's inexpensive virtual reality goggles inspired others to produce cheaper versions that are compatible with the company's apps. Speck announced its Pocket VR and I Am Cardboard announced its DSCVR Headset -- both designed to display content created for Google's Cardboard VR.

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At the Consumer Electronics Show, HTC released its Vive Pre, a headset meant mainly for developers. It has a front-facing camera that gives wearers a view into the real world. The consumer version of the Vive is expected to begin shipping in April.

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Along with the goggles and headsets that make virtual reality possible, electronic companies are also coming out with gadgets the expand the sensory limits beyond vision. For example, the Tesla Suit from Tesla Studios is a full-body suit that contains small sensors that send out tiny electrical pulses to stimulate different parts of the body, depending on the action happening in the virtual world. You can help fund the Kickstarter campaign

here

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The Vico VR is a wireless tracking device that senses a person's body movements and incorporates those movements in real-time into the virtual world. Here, a player uses the sensor to box.

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Virtuix announced its omni-directional treadmill at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, but this year they used it to host the first-ever eSports tournament in VR. There were four HTC Vive headsets connected to four treadmills. Participants could sign up to join a competitive multiplayer shooter game called Omni Arena.

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