Samsung, Six Flags Bring VR to Theme Park Roller Coasters

The virtual reality roller coaster experiences will come to 9 rides starting in the U.S. and Canada in March and extending into the summer.

Samsung Gear VR, Six Flags, amusement parks, theme parks, virtual reality, VR, roller coasters, VR headsets, , Oculus Rift, Oculus

Virtual-reality thrills and chills are coming for amusement ride fans at nine theme park roller coasters across the United States and Canada in 2016 under a partnership unveiled by Samsung and the Six Flags Entertainment Corp.

The VR roller coasters will use Samsung Gear VR virtual-reality headsets to give theme park fans full VR experiences when they ride the coasters when they open beginning in March, according to a March 3 announcement by the companies.

Under the partnership, Six Flags will equip some of its most popular coasters with Gear VR headsets that will let riders "feel the heart-pumping adrenaline of steep drops, inverted loops and powerful twists and turns as gyros, accelerometers and proximity sensors synchronize all of the action in an incredibly realistic 360-degree virtual-reality world," according to the companies.

"This remarkable technology is a definite game-changer for theme park rides" and delivers "innovative rides and attractions," John Duffey, president and CEO of Six Flags, said in a statement.

Six of the nine roller coasters to get the VR capabilities are being called New Revolution Virtual Reality Coasters, which will involve their riders in "a futuristic battle to save planet Earth from an alien invasion," according to the companies. The coaster participants will be co-pilots in their own fighter jets as they strap in for air-to-air combat, and then "see" other aircraft in an underground secret bunker as they travel. The riders will be able to launch their craft's thruster engines, raise the vehicles virtually from the bunker roof, and then "test fire their weapons using the world's first interactive game play technology on a roller coaster."

Their virtual-reality adventures will then transport them through their headsets as "they realize they are on top of a skyscraper and about to launch off the edge of the building diving straight down on the first drop of the ride," the companies said. "The aircraft races through the city until reaching the edge of the skyline where riders see the mother ship hovering above," as the coaster riders work to defeat the heavily-protected mother ship and destroy it.

The VR experience will first be available at the Shock Wave roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas, March 10 in a sneak preview for season pass holders; at the Dare Devil Dive coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia outside Atlanta, starting March 12 in a sneak preview for season pass holders; at The New Revolution coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles, starting March 26 in a sneak preview for season pass holders; at the Ninja coaster at Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka, Mo; at the Steamin' Demon coaster at The Great Escape in Lake George, N.Y.; and at the Goliath coaster at La Ronde in Montreal.

The other three VR roller coaster experiences will involve Six Flags Superman coasters, according to the announcement. On these coasters, riders "will be fully immersed in the 360-degree comic-book world of Metropolis" as they tour of the city of Metropolis and find themselves in the midst of a battle with an anti-gravity gun and dangerous bots sent out by enemy Lex Luthor. "Riders then soar alongside Superman as he battles the evil Lexbots through hairpin twists and turns, loops, dips and dives before ultimately defeating Lex and the Lexbots, and returning safely back into the station."

The Superman VR rides will debut at the Superman Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio; at Superman, The Ride at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Mass.; and at the Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, Md.

"What makes this partnership so compelling for consumers and the broader tech industry alike is that both companies are committed to pushing the boundaries of what's possible—and bringing a VR coaster to life is certainly a new and thrilling proposition," Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer at Samsung Electronics America, said in a statement. "Now, people can be immersed into a totally new universe while riding a roller coaster, powered by Samsung Gear VR virtual-reality devices. This transforms the modern roller coaster into a totally new, one-of-a-kind sensorial experience—powered by technology."

The Samsung Gear VR headset, which debuted in late 2015 for $100, is a less-expensive, consumer version of virtual-reality headsets made by Oculus. The Samsung Gear VR headsets are designed give users the ability to dive deeper into VR games and to have 360-degree video experiences.

The Gear VR works with Samsung's latest smartphone models—the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge—with their Super AMOLED displays giving users a richer virtual-reality experience.