What it's like to ride on a rollercoaster while wearing a VR headset

Alongside the headsets, there are battery packs within the seats that both power an external control sensor and the Gear VRs.


The phones being used inside the headsets are Samsung Galaxy S6s but Reveley revealed that they were also testing the Galaxy S7.

"There's things like better cooling that you will get with the S7 as it's the first Samsung phone that's been properly designed for VR," he said. "The S6 was a bit of a retrofit for VR technology but still works well."


Another advantage of having a remote system is it's easier to update when needed.

"We can deploy all software from the tablet. We have been working on the content to make sure it's an amazing experience. Every time we do a tweak, we can then deploy these changes to all of the headsets at once, remotely," said Reveley.

"In theory we could do special events where we have bespoke content then take it out. It's such a flexible medium."

Space time

There is something of a learning curve for those new to VR, with the video that plays before you get on the ride explaining how the headsets work.

It's all pretty simple, though. You put the headset on, make sure it is tight and use the dial at the top of the headset to focus the screen. The headset is attached by springy wires and there is a person whose job it is to wipe the lenses clean every time they are used by a rider.


Once the headset is on, the rollercoaster starts. The experience is a lot of fun, though prepare to be a little disorientated. The VR footage is crisp, if a little too CG, but it maps to the many twists and turns Galactica has to offer brilliantly. The sound that accompanies it is great, too, and is piped through earphones that are within the protective layer of the headset.

Air is renowned for being one of the smoothest rollercoasters around, so it suits the space theme well and while the thrill of seeing where you're going on the ride - in real life - isn't there, watching the footage while feeling the outside elements is a great experience.

Alton Towers

Riding Galactica is definitely something you should do more than once. We went on it twice and had a better experience the second time around. This was because we knew the premise of what we were seeing and this meant that the disorientation wasn't there.

It felt like we could look around a lot more without fear of missing anything important out. At just three minutes, the ride does feel too short as well - you want the experience to go on at least a minute longer.

Testing time

We tried out Galactica in the midst of rigorous testing - not only because the ride is just weeks away from launch, but this is one of the first new attractions to be revealed since the tragedy that struck Alton Towers last year, when its Smiler ride crashed and lead to several life-changing injuries.


There is obvious caution but this is a tried-and-tested rollercoaster that's been around for over 10 years, albeit with a VR flourish.

"On the VR side, we are so lucky to be working on a rollercoaster like this. It is so smooth and you have that flight position, it is one of those designs that work perfectly with VR," said Reveley.

"A lot of people are thinking about VR rollercoasters and I think they see it as a cheap upgrade to a knackered old thing but that isn't the case here.

"This is like the Rolls Royce of rollercoasters, it's a beautiful thing to have VR on."

With more VR rollercoaster experiences planned in the US, with Six Flags also announcing a linkup with Samsung and the Gear VR, virtual reality may have finally found its groove - not in the home, but hurtling 40mph down a steep track.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.