Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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You can now wear a VR headset on a roller coaster. Whoopee?

You can now wear a VR headset on a roller coaster. Whoopee?

Vomit, in all its slimy awfulness, cannot easily be made into a cube. But it can be squared.

That, in a roundabout way, is what Six Flags is up to with its Superman Virtual Reality Coaster and assorted other forays into the “VR Coaster” space. Take nausea-inducing VR, add mechanical device designed to shake your body a bit like the champagne at the end of a Formula 1 race, and… prosper?

Six Flags says their creation won’t be a vomit comet (vomitorium?). To wit, here is the full section on unwanted nausea-induced secretions from VR Coaster’s FAQ page:

Don’t you get motion sick when wearing a VR headset while riding a real rollercoaster?

Not at all, as long as you have precise synchronization to the real ride. This is because you’re not only watching 3D movement, but your inner sense of balance actually feels the real movement. Even people who are actually afraid of rollercoasters or tend to get motion sick had no problems when going on a VR Coaster Ride.

Most of all, these rides feel much more comfortable than riding a virtual reality roller coaster at home in front of your desktop.

Don’t the inertial sensors fail under such extreme g-forces?

No, it turned out that they keep working totally precise throughout the entire ride.

Presumably Six Flags has done some research, but if they’ve mastered nausea so comprehensively they should move on to something easier like finding world peace. Maybe the whole thing is so vomit-inducing that there isn’t room for it to escape your esophagus. (Though, as anyone who has seen Breaking Bad or a first aid class knows, that is not necessarily a superior outcome.)

Innovation in virtual reality will require plenty of reasonably silly uses

What problem is Six Flags trying to solve here? Are roller coasters too boring at present? Is it important to be able to combat monsters while riding on one an ostensibly secure deathtrap? Have there been many requests for goggles you can wear that make it look like there’s no track underfoot as you do a loop-de-loop? Maybe not, but that appears to be what is happening here. Hooray!? Innovation in virtual reality will require plenty of reasonably silly uses from which something is learned, and that’s what Superman Virtual Reality Coaster represents. The integration of motion and virtual reality is genuinely interesting, even if this represents the most absurd.

The combination of virtual reality and roller coasters, in other words, is the sort of idea that is so remarkably bad that one is tempted to entertain the possibility that it is secretly brilliant just to maintain faith that there is some order in the universe. It is also a borderline-necessary sort of bad idea.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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