Launch - VR Gets Wet - November 2018

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Galaxy Erding's "VRSlide" marries waterproof virtual reality headsets with an existing single-rider slide. (Credit: Galaxy Erding)

Galaxy Erding Adds Virtual Reality Water Slide 

by James Careless

Virtual reality is adding a new dimension in Europe: water. 

Germany’s Galaxy Erding indoor water park—which bills itself as “Europe’s largest water slide world”—opened a virtual reality (VR) slide inside its 25-meter-high retractable dome. Known as “VRSlide,” the attraction equips single tube riders with waterproof VR headsets made by the U.S. company Ballast VR, allowing the riders to slide through a 3D fantasy world as they zoom down the track. The park is located in Erding, Germany, 36 kilometers northeast of Munich.

“The new VR slide combines the magic of the virtual experience with the thrill of water slides,” says Galaxy Erding CEO Marcus Maier. “At the moment, guests can explore a Sky-World and a Galaxy-World.” In each instance, the 3D graphics shown by the Ballast VR headsets provide the rider with an exciting, colorful, and whimsical journey in a fast-moving fantasy, virtual environment.

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The VR headsets connect wirelessly to a real-time 3D tracking system that synchronizes the video to riders' motion on the slide. (Credit: Galaxy Erding)

Weighing just 393.3 grams each, the waterproof Ballast VR headsets connect wirelessly to a real-time 3D tracking system. This system ensures the 3D animations being seen by the “VRSlide” rider accurately align with their actual physical position, orientation, and speed/acceleration on the water slide’s run. The high-definition video within each headset is displayed on a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone mounted lengthwise.

Galaxy Erding charges the slide’s riders 2 euros for every ride they take wearing VR headsets. Riders not wearing VR headsets are not charged an additional fee.

According to Maier, “VRSlide” attracts 300 to 600 riders daily, adding 600-1,200 euros of additional revenue a day.

To keep “VRSlide” guests buying repeat rides, “the worlds are constantly renewed,” says Maier. “Visitors have the chance to test the slide over and over again, discover new worlds, and have a new experience.”

When not in use, the Ballast VR headsets are cleaned and then docked in charging stations. Once docked, they transmit data to Ballast VR’s servers detailing rider capacity, the VR programs selected by riders, and headset diagnostic data for preventative troubleshooting.

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In late 2018, the water park plans to release a new virtual world, where guests will be immersed in a realistic jungle. (Credit: Galaxy Erding)

Galaxy Erding spent more than 300,000 euros installing the VR ride system, which opened in March. The company developed and deployed “VRSlide” in partnership with slide manufacturers Wiegand.maelzer, Samsung, and Ballast VR.

Maier says the water park’s team learned quite a bit since opening “VRSlide;” Galaxy Erding needed to increase the number of staff assigned to “VRSlide” to manage it more effectively. The park also restricted the rider weight limit to 220 pounds.

Still, the investment has been financially worthwhile.

“We are planning a new world to be released in late 2018,” says Maier. “The guest will be immersed in a spectacular jungle world, which will be more realistic with more effects like a real waterfall.”

www.therme-erding.de