Launch - In Depth - January 2019


Efteling offers a 360-degree virtual reality video experience for guests in wheelchairs and other mobility devices to experience “Droomvlucht.” (Credit: Efteling)

Efteling Employee’s Idea Launches VR for Guests with Disabilities

Virtual reality (VR) has enhanced roller coasters at amusement parks, simulated underwater dives at aquariums, and upgraded games at family entertainment centers. And now, Efteling theme park in Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands, has come up with a valuable use of VR that makes one of its most popular rides available to guests who otherwise can’t enjoy it—and does so without sacrificing their “group” experience.

For more than 25 years, “Droomvlucht,” or “Dreamflight,” has stood as a signature attraction at Efteling. The six-minute ride transports guests seated in open gondolas through several scenes featuring forests, castles, and fairy-tale creatures, including trolls and fairies. However, the design of the ride units prevents guests seated in wheelchairs and other mobility devices from experiencing the ride—until recently. Park employee Freek Teunen created a concept to allow everyone to experience the attraction.

“I wondered why we did not have an alternative to ‘Droomvlucht’ for our guests with a disability, and that’s when this idea came into being,” he says. “So much is possible today, thanks to current digital developments.” Teunen developed his idea in detail and presented it to the park’s board of directors. Efteling CEO Fons Jurgens reacted positively, saying, “It is great to see how enthusiastic employees contribute. They are in direct contact with our guests and can therefore see where their needs lie. I am proud of Freek, and I think it is a good thing that we realized his idea.” 

Efteling set up a VR room in the building where “Droomvlucht” takes place. The park served as the main contractor for the project and directed the installation. The VR glasses, hardware, and video production were provided by Dutch audiovisual firm BeamSystems. The video of the ride experience that guests with disabilities see in their headsets was filmed using a 360-degree camera system to capture full panoramic views. 

Guests remain seated for the experience, where they are first assisted by an Efteling attendant who helps them put on the VR headset. Because of the 360-degree video capture, these guests can see all of the attraction scenes around them by moving their heads, just as if they were in a ride vehicle. Plus, if the participating guests with disabilities have family members or friends on the actual ride, the 360-degree VR video starts as soon as their group’s gondola begins moving so they’re all experiencing the ride simultaneously. 

Better still, the VR guests and the people in their groups are all equipped with headset microphones and earphones, allowing them to converse during the ride and comment on what they’re seeing. 

Karin Koppelmans, Efteling’s senior communications and public relations representative, shares there are other delightful features of the VR experience.

“Complementary to the 360-degree video, we employ wind effects and scents [in the VR room] at the exact same time the guests in the gondola are experiencing it.”