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Virtual reality turns Alton Towers flying coaster into intergalactic spaceship

The Galactica virtual reality experience coming to Alton Towers combines the adrenaline rush of a flying roller coaster with the breathtaking viewpoint of a rocket ship hurtling through outer space.

Set to debut in April, the first VR coaster experience at the theme park in Staffordshire, England, will take riders on an intergalactic journey aboard the existing Air flying coaster.

Riders wearing Samsung Gear VR headsets will encounter molten planets, frozen tundras and newborn stars as they travel 45 mph along the twists, turns and loops of the 2002 Bolliger and Mabillard coaster.

Alton Towers officials promise the virtual reality visuals will be perfectly synchronized to the 2,800-foot-long coaster track as riders hanging in a horizontal flying position experience 3.5 Gs and two inversions.

The back story for the coaster overlay begins in the queue when visitors are recruited by the Galactica space tourism company to become interstellar pioneers known as Galactinauts in the year 3016.

While waiting in line, riders meet a travel agent who books their space flight, an engineer who explains the pseudoscience behind the journey, and an “experience officer” who prepares passengers for launch.

After boarding the Air train, riders put on Samsung Gear VR headsets, and the virtual adventure begins. A ground crew of service droids prepares the jetpack flight vehicle for space travel as an artificial intelligence robot named Eve goes over the cosmic flight plan.

As the coaster train departs from the station, riders pass through a multidimensional launch portal that transports the passengers to the outer edges of the solar system.

During the 80-second journey, riders pass through the clouds of the Great Orion Nebula, over the lava lakes of the fictional volcano planet Nero 5, across the frozen landscapes of frost-covered Keplar 9, and they witness the birth of a new star.

Designed by U.K.-based Figment Productions, the Air conversion marks the most extreme coaster yet to get a VR makeover. So far, VR overlays have mostly been attempted on tamer mine train coasters such as Thunder Run at Canada’s Wonderland and the Alpenexpress at Germany’s Europa Park.

This summer, a new Ghost Train attraction combining virtual reality technology with special effects and magical illusions will debut at Alton’s U.K. rival Thorpe Park outside London.

Alton Towers is still trying to recover from a horrific accident in June when two trains collided on the Smiler roller coaster. The park blamed human error for the accident that seriously injured five people.


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