WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- An amusement park in Virginia is set to make history this spring as they open the world's first virtual reality motion simulator attraction known as "Battle for Eire."
The attraction is steeped in Irish mythology and centers around a character named Addie. Riders follow her alongside a dragon as they attempt to save "the heart of eire" from gremlin-like creatures. As you follow Addie and her attempt to defeat her enemies, riders take on the experience of what it would be like to fly on top of a dragon.
Wind bristles on your face and your ears and there is movement from your chair as you undergo different phases of the short-lived ride. Although there is a main story line that is occurring right in front of you, riders still have the ability to look around from a 360 degree angle and see all of the various aspects of the animation being used to tell the story.
"This attraction has been many things before," Ron Vample, senior communications manager at Busch Garden Williamsburg said. "But this is something that brings together new technology with virtual reality and also marrying that with our motion based theater simulator comes together for something that's unique in the theme park industry. We really pushed the envelope here in creating a new experience for our guests."
Vample says it was really easy to choose Irish culture as a theme to center the park's newest attraction around.
"It's all about the magic of Ireland. When we were thinking about this in the creative process we wanted something that was magical and Ireland has magic," Vample said.
The park also hopes that the main character in the story, Addie, is a great example of boys and girls of all ages who decide to ride "Battle for Eire."
"She's a fierce warrior. She epitomizes girl power, that message really resonates. She's our hero, she's a warrior," Vample said.
Busch Gardens decided to take on virtual reality because it is something they had never done before. Vample says the park wanted to "create meaningful, new experiences for our guests." They also saw an opportunity to use a product that no other theme park has in a motion based simulator.
Despite the anticipation for this particular attraction, virtual reality rides have been a cause for concern due to sickness riders may experience while wearing the headsets.
Oculus is a company that specializes in virtual reality. The company's chief technology officer John Carmack discussed the cons VR rides could face in the future during the Game Developer’s Conference in 2015, according to a Fortune article which also points out that "a small percentage of first time users have reported to feel nauseated instantly upon wearing the headsets."
“You can get eyestrain,” Carmack explained at the time. “You can make yourself sick if you do certain things."
Busch Gardens' spokesperson says the park considered these factors while creating the ride. The park decided not to add as much movement to the ride as they could've.
"We're still fine tuning some aspects and we're actually adding some enhancements to the ride so you won't have that queasiness feeling in your stomach when you're riding," Vample said. "But there are some things you can do to mitigate that feeling and we do some of those things in this particular ride."
Vample suggested eating a green apple or chewing gum to prevent illness. If riders are uncomfortable with the virtual reality aspect of the ride but still want to experience the attraction, they will be able to watch on a big screen in front of them without having to wear VR gear.
When a rider walks in to the attraction, they're given what is known as "the emerald mask." The mask is placed on your face and is used to hold the VR goggles you will use to watch the ride from a 360 degree angle. The park says there is a two step process to cleaning the masks which will be used by thousands of people during the summer.
"We have 10,000 masks right now so there's a very small chance you'll use a mask that someone else had on that particular day, Vample said. "We wash them all down, blow dry them and get ready for the next ride. It happens after each ride, we take them and get them washed. You will always wear a mask that has been cleaned and sanitized."
The park expects to open the attraction in April. Will there be more virtual reality rides besides "Battle for Eire" in Busch Gardens' future?
"Who knows? Our creative team is always thinking of ways to do something to push the envelope that's different," Vample said. "Maybe virtual reality is part of that, maybe there's something that's new technology that's down the line. Augmented reality is something that maybe someone can tap into."