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OM in the News: Amusement Parks Hurtle Into Virtual Reality

September 8, 2016
Amusement parks hope virtual reality will lure visitors

Amusement parks hope virtual reality will lure visitors

There are more than 3,000 roller coasters world-wide. Amusement and theme parks are booming, generating revenue of roughly $32 billion last year, up almost 40% from 2009. But competition among parks and from other types of entertainment is intense.

Major park operators must provide innovative amusement facilities such as outrageous rides and generate exclusive entertainment environments. “Usage of entertainment-related technology is increasingly becoming imperative for the success of a theme park,” writes The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 31, 2016). For roller-coaster fans bored by loops and drops, virtual reality, or VR (see page 172 in Chapter 5), offers the extra twist of flying dragons, battles with aliens or a midair rescue by Superman, at 25 newly equipped amusement parks across the globe.

In September, Europa Park’s child-friendly “Alpenexpress” locomotive ride went live with a VR romp among cartoon animals. Headset wearers experience a corkscrew loop that the tame ride doesn’t do. Soon after, Six Flags and other operators jumped onboard. In March, Six Flags debuted the technology to relaunch its 1976-vintage Revolution coaster in Los Angeles—the world’s first coaster with a full loop—on its 40th birthday. Riders experience an airborne battle against invading aliens. It then added a Superman adventure and in July relaunched its Demon coaster as “Rage of the Gargoyles,” an interactive adventure in which riders can shoot at virtual monsters by looking at them. On most of the 25 current user roller coasters, VR it is offered as an option, meaning parks can pitch both a virtual or traditional version of the coaster. Staff are needed to help riders gear-up and manage headset swaps.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of adding this VR feature?
  2. Name other potential OM applications for VR.
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