Virtual Reality + Waterpark = Awesomeness!
Virtual reality snorkeling (Image source: screenshot from Wiegand Waterrides video)
Almost every day, I'm exposed to an idea that stops me in my tracks and makes me say "Wow!" Just a few minutes ago as I pen these words, for example, my chum John in the UK (see also On Mushrooms, Socks, and Ducks) sent me an email containing naught but a link and a smiley face.
Since I couldn’t do much with the smiley face, I clicked on the link, only to discover the most amazing video of something I wouldn’t have thought about myself -- yay had I lived for 1,000 years -- combining a waterslide with virtual reality.
Have you ever been on one of those rides at an amusement park like Disney World or Universal Studios -- you know, the ones in which you wear a VR headset while your chair vibrates and squirms around beneath your posterior?
Sad to relate, I haven’t had the pleasure myself, but I've heard that these offer remarkable experiences. Having said this, I bet these experiences are as nothing compared to the sensations invoked by rocketing down a waterslide while immersed in a virtual world.
The funny thing about all this is that I like to believe that I'm riding the technology wave when it comes to things liked virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), augmented virtuality (AV), and mixed reality (MR) (see also What the FAQ are VR, MR, AR, DR, AV, and HR?).
I honestly believe that the combination of mixed reality headsets with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is going to dramatically change the way in which we interface with the world, our systems, and each other. I think about this stuff all the time, so it's all the more embarrassing to me that I'd never even conceived of a scenario such as this.
I was still reeling with the shock of seeing the waterslide when I ran across this video of people enjoying a virtual reality snorkeling experience (and that's not something you expect to hear yourself say every day).
This is at the same waterpark as the aforementioned waterslide. On the one hand, it looks a bit surrealistic to see people tethered to the bottom of a swimming pool. On the other hand, I really enjoy the Ocean Rift app on my Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This app is remarkably realistic, even though the user knows that he or she is actually standing in the middle of the room. I can only imagine what it would be like to be buoyed up by real water and to be able to feel like I was really swimming through underwater reefs and shipwrecks and suchlike.
From the above video, it also appears as though you can have a virtual reality space experience, where the fact that you are submerged in water simulates the effects of zero gravity. Sad to relate, I missed my chance to don scuba gear and experience a zero-gravity water tank simulator while undergoing Astronaut Training for a Trip to Mars because I'd injured my finger the week before (see also Doctors, Engineers, and Medical Devices, Oh My!) and I didn’t want to take any chances of getting an infection.
Returning to the water slide for a moment; the biggest problem with this would be that the experience -- intense as it was -- would be over so quickly. Well, turn that frown upside down into a smile, because the engineers at the waterpark have you covered.
Have you ever owned a hamster? Have you ever seen those plastic tubes that you can connect together to make a tunnel system for a hamster to play in? There are straight pieces and curved pieces and all sorts of things. If I were to lay my hands on a big box of these, I think I'd have more fun than the hamster.
Now, imagine boosting these tubes up in size to human proportions -- say around 8 to 10 feet in diameter -- and then using them to make an M.C. Escher type construction that constantly curves through and folds back on itself. I'm guestimating that the resulting "ball" would be about 60 to 70 feet in diameter. Finally imagine adding water and people, and then spinning the entire construction on a massive multi-axis gimbal.
Actually, you don’t need to imagine any of this because you can see it in this video with your own eyes.
I'm not sure if they've combined this with the VR headsets, but -- if not -- they should. The result would be a never-ending waterslide. I know that you'd be hard-pushed to cajole or wheedle me out of it.
I never thought I'd say this, but I just added a waterpark to my "bucket list" of things to do before I shrug off this mortal coil and head out to the next plane of my existence (i.e., before I "kick the bucket"). How about you? Have you previously heard of the idea of combining VR with waterslides and/or snorkeling? Have you tried either for yourself? If so, what was it like? If not, could you be tempted?