Busch Gardens Aims To Perfect VR Thrill Rides With Latest Immersive Attraction
Battle For Eire maximizes rider capacity with a streamlined fitting process.
Despite serving as a perfect tool for enhancing and augmenting conventional thrill rides, VR technology has yet to find its footing in the world of theme park entertainment. We’ve seen multiple attempts at integrating the technology in the past, such as SweaWorld’s Kraken Unleashed VR rollercoaster and Six Flags’ DC SUPER HEROES Drop of Doom VR attraction, but slow turn-around times and concerns over hygiene have managed to keep VR theme park attractions a rarity.
In an effort to combat the multiple issues currently plaguing the VR theme park market, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has teamed up with Falcon Creative Group, DreamCraft Attractions, and HTC to develop Battle for Eire, an immersive VR attraction that addresses three primary concerns: long wait times, time-consuming and inefficient cleaning processes, and poor performance/tracking in multiuser experiences.
“We understood the need to keep people moving through the experience to enhance their time spent there—we call that ride capacity,” explained Larry Giles, VP of Design & Engineering at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, parent company of Busch Gardens, in an official case study. “We also knew other [theme park] VR experiences had much lower ride capacity, which was the most common complaint among riders.”
Using DreamCraft Attraction’s DreamSet—one of the first and most popular head-mounted display systems designed specifically for VR attractions—Falcon Creative took a unique approach to visitor turn-around that involves preparing riders for their immersive journey while they wait on-line. Once visitors enter the queue, they’re given what is referred to as an “Emerald Mask,” a simplified head-mount for the HTC Vive. After receiving a brief rundown of Battle of Eire’s plot and characters, riders then board the motion simulator and attach an “Enchanted Lens” (the HTC Vive itself) to their Emerald Mask via a simple set of magnets.
By providing users with their own personal Emerald Masks as they wait on-line, operators can quickly cycle in new riders as well as increase overall rider capacity, all while providing a more convenient and cleanly experience that doesn’t require any messy wipe-downs. The ride itself is made up of two identical motion simulator platforms, each of which capable of supporting up to 59-passengers at one time, allowing operators to alternate between groups. As a result, Battle For Eire can service up to 1,000 people every hour.
“The flexibility of the VIVE headset allowed for the creation of a whole-new, easy-to-use adapter that could physically separate the head mount from the display,” said Jason Ambler, Executive Producer and Director of Production at Falcon’s Creative Group. “Once guests are seated on the ride, they can quickly and easily attach the display, which is held in place with a magnet system. At the end of the experience, the VIVE display remains on the ride while the head mounts are collected and industrially washed before being redistributed.”
In regards to performance, Falcon Creative once again enlisted the support of DreamCraft and their specialized tech. In order to provide visitors with a high-fidelity experience perfectly synchronized across 59 headsets, each seat of the ride has been outfitted with an Intel® NUC Mini PC containing DreamCraft’s custom-developed real-time playback engine software. This technology allows players to engage with numerous interactive elements throughout the multiperson experience while still providing big-budget cinematic visuals. Other immersion-enhancing additions include realistic wind effects, 6DoF motion platforms, and an original musical score presented via a theatrical 7.1 surround sound mix.
“VIVE proved to be a great product and provided the support to help us with our unique setup,” added Giles. “Guests really enjoy the experience. It’s fun to watch riders look all around the cabin with their headsets and hear their reactions during the ride and exuberant comments afterwards. It makes the hard work worthwhile.”
Battle for Eire is open to the public now in the Ireland section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Featured Image Credit: SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment