Virtual Reality Testing on Iron Dragon At Cedar Point
Right now during Cedar Point Nights, guests can test out virtual reality on Iron Dragon every night from 6pm-9pm. To participate in the testing, guests must first pre-register. Registration begins daily at noon in front of the coaster. We visited the park recently and of course we had to try it!
We got in the registration line early and ended up in the first time slot at 5:50pm. They had time slots running every five minutes with the goal being to send a train out every five minutes. That worked well for the first few trains, but when we passed through the area again later in the night, the line was backed up down the stairs leaving us wondering how adding VR would affect the rides throughput. Cedar Point is a park that prides themselves in operating their rides at maximum capacity to cycle through guests as quickly as possible, so throughput is a primary concern for the park.
When we got up to the platform, we were given a Samsung GearVR headset with a phone already attached inside the goggles. One of the issues that comes up frequently with VR on rides is the worry of numerous people wearing the same headsets. The headsets that were given to us had been cleaned with hospital grade sanitizer and the park had enough headsets that they could alternate trains and clean each one before giving it to a new guest. The headsets themselves were the standard GearVR headsets that have been recently used at various parks such as Six Flags. They were adjustable in three places; the back of the head and then on both sides with Velcro. This made it easy to adjust (although, ladies beware! It does get stuck in your hair especially if you take it on and off to adjust the size). We did feel a bit rushed getting it on and didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to fit the headset before we were ushered onto the train. This became an issue later on during the ride because the headsets did feel a little loose and we found ourselves holding on to them to make sure they didn’t fall off during the ride. If the ride had been more aggressive or had an any inversions, this might have been a bigger problem.
Once everyone was in the train, the ride ops came around and checked on the status of our headsets as they checked restraints. They did have to make minor adjustments to some headsets. Some folks had an issue with the screen going dark not allowing them to see any video. The headsets calibrated while you were waiting in the train and included a feature to adjust the focus of the image to your liking. After the calibration, the issue arose where some of the screens didn’t match the direction riders were facing. The video starts with you sitting in a horse drawn carriage and after calibration, the horse ended up about 45 degrees to the left rather than straight forward. This issue was resolved shortly after the ride began though.
Aside from some small issues with the headsets themselves, the graphics looked amazing and truly took Iron Dragon to the next level. The view is 360 degrees so you can look all around you and see your virtual ride. As you’re driving your horse and carriage up the first hill, an ogre attacks, but Edgar the dragon comes to the rescue and takes you on an adventure through the twists and turns of the ride. The story is very immersive. There’s things popping out at you as well as stellar views. The beta test version of this video does lack sound, but we were so preoccupied by the visuals that the lack of sound ended up being a trivial issue. As thrill seekers who frequent Cedar Point on a regular basis, we have ridden Iron Dragon many many times, but the graphics and the story are so immersive, it doesn’t feel like you’re on Iron Dragon at all. The only times we were able to tell where we were on the track was at the two lift hills. For someone who doesn’t frequent the park, they will have no idea about their conception of location.
VR could be a great option to give new life to less popular attractions to Cedar Fair parks in the future. People seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience overall. Doing something like this does leave questions about how it would affect throughput. Repeat riders may not be as inclined to spend a long time in line when they’ve already experienced the video. It could be a good opportunity though for Cedar Point to do more theming in their ride queue using the backstory of the video and possibly incorporate some of the headset fittings into the line waiting process.
Have you tested VR on Iron Dragon yet? What about VR at any other parks? Let us know your thoughts below or via our social channels!
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