Six Flags Over Georgia adds virtual reality to roller coaster

Six Flags Over Georgia will kick off the season this weekend with a virtual reality roller coaster designed to give coaster enthusiasts a new, out-of-this-world (literally) experience.

The New Revolution at Dare Devil Dive debuts Saturday, but only 2016 season passholders will be able to experience this high-tech ride this opening weekend (March 12-13). The virtual reality coaster will open to the public on March 19, and Six Flags said this special experience will be available only for a limited time. (They have not said exactly how long it will be available.)

The new season at Six Flags Over Georgia also brings fresh fun for the whole family, with the opening of Bugs Bunny Boomtown. If you’ve also heard about a DC Super Friends area, you’ll have to wait until later in the spring for that opening.

With New Revolution at Dare Devil Dive, riders (of real roller coasters) become “co-pilots” on their own virtual fighter jets, using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus. As riders clear the roof, 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 aircraft races through the city until reaching the edge of the skyline where riders see the mother ship hovering above.

RELATED: Taking a ride on New Revolution at Dare Devil Dive at Six Flags

The goggles, worn while riding the coaster, were designed in conjunction with virtual reality innovator Oculus. They are built to work with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and other Galaxy mobile phones (which are part of the headset), and include head straps and chin straps to help secure the equipment during the thrilling coaster rides. Riders of the virtual reality coaster must be at least 13 years old.

It’s an intense experience that gives you the sensation of being inside a video game, all the while with the thrills of being on a coaster with dramatic lifts, falls and curls. It’s a head-over-heels battle through 2,100 feet of twisted steel track, and thanks to virtual reality, you aren’t just getting an adrenaline rush but you are fighting alien forces and saving all mankind.

The headsets, for example, respond to the individual movements of each rider. Each headset tracks where it is in relation to a “black box” fixed onto the car, so the headsets always know where they are and are in sync with the movements of the ride. Six Flags corporate director of design Sam Rhodes said Six Flags has been interested in adding VR technology for at least a couple of years, but it was only during recent years that groundbreaking technology made it possible.

And why is the coaster not a big enough thrill all by itself?

“We have to look at our core market of teenagers and young adults,” Rhodes said. “And they are video gamers. We have to find ways to combine video games and entertainment. So gamers can play a video game at home, they don’t have a roller coaster in the backyard. We are taking the (roller coaster) experience and amplifying it.”

Robbie Blinkoff, an assistant professor of anthropology at Goucher College in Maryland, said we have seemingly lost our ability to be wowed by simpler things. He also said people are turning to more individualistic experiences. The roller coaster allows riders, while sharing the experience of being on the coaster, to slip into their own world behind these goggles.

And while the new VR coaster is expected to be a major draw to Six Flags this summer, it’s not the only change at the amusement park.

Six Flags Over Georgia is also unveiling new family-friendly rides for 2016. The amusement park is renovating and expanding the former Bugs Bunny World, the aging section of the park home to rides for kids and visits by the Warner Bros. cartoon characters. The wascally wabbit’s area is being reborn as Bugs Bunny Boomtown when the park opens March 12.

Opening later this spring will be a new adjoining area called DC Super Friends, with rides and attractions carrying the names of popular DC Comics superheroes. Together the family-friendly lands will feature a dozen rides, most of them new and some rethemed from existing attractions.

Many of the rides will be mild enough for youngsters, but designed to appeal to the entire family, including Superman Tower of Power, which bounces riders up and down a 65-foot pillar, and Daffy Ducks Bucket Blasters, which lets riders shoot water guns at each other as their bucket-shaped vehicles spin around.

The last major improvement to Bugs Bunny World was the addition of the Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster roller coaster in 2004; the area had been largely unchanged for decades before then. The coaster remains but will operate with a new name and theme.

MORE: Six Flags plans more family-friendly rides in 2016

MORE: Six Flags filling 3,000 jobs for 2016 season

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