A novel yet simple idea combining a Guitar Hero-like video game with a water park slide transforms what was once a virtual reality into a real-world experience.
Built by Canada-based WhiteWater West, the first-of-its-kind Slideboard water slide coming in May to Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas will turn riders into gamers as they navigate a serpentine 300-foot-long enclosed flume.
Designed to be both easy to understand for novices and challenging to master for hardcore players, Slideboard employs controllers and targets familiar to anyone who has ever played a video game.
Riders sit upright on a boogie board-like raft with hand-holds that double as game controllers. The left handle has two illuminated buttons (red and yellow) while the right handle has two additional buttons (blue and green).
The object of the game: Click the colored button that corresponds to the LED bulb glowing inside the pitch-black flume as you pass over a hidden sensor. The closer you get to the target, the more points you accumulate. Riders are penalized for purposely slowing down to improve their scores.
With up to 36 levels of difficulty, riders start out by matching a single color to a few select targets inside the slide and on subsequent trips advance to multiple button combinations as they pass over 20 target areas.
Constructed with a small onboard computer inside, the inflatable rubber board with a synthetic cotton core and an injected molded backrest vibrates whenever a rider successfully hits a target.
Scores are posted next to riders' nicknames on a scoreboard near the splashdown pool at the end of the flume, with daily high scores recorded on a smartphone app and dedicated website.
The competitive nature of the game is expected to encourage repeat runs so riders can practice and improve — something they can do only at the water park. Wet 'n' Wild eventually expects to host tournaments for top players.
Rider and board are synced via a wireless radio-frequency identification wristband at a station before ascending the tower to the top of the slide. A countdown screen above the slide entrance displays the rider's nickname and difficulty level as soon as the board is placed in the water.
Those who aren't interested in game play can simply enjoy the atmospheric light show timed to a musical score that crescendos with every dip in the slide.
WhiteWater West employees conducted a beta test of the Slideboard technology in August at the nearby Cultus Lake water park in British Columbia by modifying the existing Tubular Terror slide.
During a trade convention in late October, a similar preview test was conducted at Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas after the new Slideboard system was installed at the Nevada water park. Whitewater West retrofitted the existing Zipp Zapp Zoom enclosed slide with 20 sensors — meaning riders will encounter an illuminated target about once a second. The new slide won't open to the public until May.
The Slideboard system, which can be retrofitted onto an existing slide or incorporated into a new installation, utilizes wireless technology, networking computers, position sensors and LED illumination to create a low-wattage gaming environment that mixes well with water.
WhiteWater West has attracted interest in Europe for the new Slideboard concept and plans to pitch the new slide to U.S. and Asian water parks in the coming months.
Great Wolf Lodge, a national chain of rustic-themed hotels featuring indoor water parks, plans to open Slideboard water slides this year at its locations in Williamsburg, Virginia and Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.