For a brief moment, my heart rate hit 120, and I was convinced I was going to die as I barreled toward an asteroid in my one-man space fighter.
I was also strapped into a giant mechanical wheel in the middle of the Mobile World Conference showroom floor being spun upside down and tossed around at high speed. The combination of the Samsung Gear VR strapped to my face and the 3D range of motion was more than enough to convince me of the reality of my situation.
After I finished the ride, I looked into the Space Wheel itself and discovered that it’s a product known as the Gyro VR, produced by Randi, the research and development brand of Sanghwa which combines hardware and software solutions to create VR content. The Gyro VR is exactly what it sounds like, a 360-degree gyroscopic wheel that seats three people and can move on four axes. The company has other similar products like the Robot VR, an industrial robotic arm with four to six seats strapped to it that swings, rocks, gyrates, and generally replicates a Six Flags roller coaster with eerie accuracy.
The Gyro VR could be the future of theme parks. This 360-degree gyroscopic wheel seats three people and can move on four axes. While the machine spins them around, the riders are watching VR content through their headsets. In this case, the riders think they're flying through an asteroid belt in spaceships. This technology delivers a rollercoaster-like experience but requires far less space, maintenance, and staff. #mwc2017 #virtualreality #gyroVR #rollercoaster #tech #samsung #vr
“I think it will be the future of the theme park,” said Sangwha CEO Beomjoon Jung, referring to the company’s products. A theme park featuring the Gyro VR and other rides is scheduled to open soon in Seoul, and Jung said the company has also received orders from the US, Mexico, and other countries.
Compared to a traditional coaster, the Gyro VR and other products demand less space, maintenance, and staff (the Gyro VR requires one controller and one boarding assistant), and less initial expense for installation. “If you install a roller coast it will cost up to $30 million,” he said. “It is too large a number.”
Not to mention the increased safety. If a roller coaster malfunctions, people can die. If the Gyro VR malfunctions, you must be stuck in an uncomfortable position for a few minutes.
Most significantly, rides remain fresh. Since it’s all generated in VR, the only limit to the number of rides is developer output. If you decide you want your ride to have a Star Wars theme for when the new movie comes out, it’s easy to implement and just as easy to remove when the novelty wears off.
The compact size is also an advantage; you can’t set up a roller coaster in an MWC showroom. Lim Jong-Sik, Overseas Marketing Director for Gyeongju Smart Media Center, concurred. “You have to go there to experience [theme park rides], our system is more mobile.”
The Smart Media Center is a bit different from Samsung’s ride, though; its purpose is educational. I was able to travel halfway across the world to tour a temple from Korea’s Silla dynasty. Real-life, 360-degree footage was interspaced with a sense of motion; the seat rumbled and shifted as I was guided through the temple. It corresponded with music and VR animations that brought elements of the temple to life, while audio and text gave me historical background.
It was a vivid and interactive way to engage with history in a VR environment. The only annoyance was that in this case, I was wearing the Oculus Rift and every time I turned my head the cable shifted and dug into my neck. Despite the higher resolution on the Rift, I preferred the lighter weight and ease of movement from the Gear VR.
These are only minor issues though. We’re still very much in the first generation of VR headsets. As future generations come out, we’re almost certain to get more comfortable and wire-free headsets. Once that happens you can expect the 4D space to really take off as theme parks and educational institutes see the value in substituting costly and space-consuming equipment for more compact VR experiences.
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