One of Europe’s largest water parks, Therme Erding’s Galaxy Erding water park in Germany, has a new claim to fame: a water slide that outfits guests with a VR headset. Dubbed VRSlide, the system includes a water-resistant VR headset powered by a Samsung Galaxy S8 for a deep dive through the waters of the digital unknown.

As first reported by The Verge, the VR headset system was developed by American startup Ballast VR and includes a number of features that aim to keep park guests moving through the lines at a regular pace.

At 393.3 grams (~0.8 pounds), the headset features wireless charging, NFC, and a pass-through camera. VRSlide headsets are tracked by Ballast’s patented tracking system, which is accomplished through a mix of ultrasound sensors for the slide rider’s position and accelerometer to further confirm the position. The company maintains the precision of their tracking system “eliminates most motion sickness commonly felt in early virtual reality experiences.”

Image courtesy Ballast VR

Each headset docks in a dedicated charging cabinet and wirelessly sends information from that day’s operations to the company’s servers, which allows Ballast to do things like generate analytic reports about rider capacity, update content, and detail each headset’s performance.

The company’s VR water slide experiences were developed in Unity, something Ballast says allows them to “easily make tweaks, push updates and create brand new experiences … [so] guests have something new to look forward to with every visit.”

VRSlide is available on the park’s 160 meter (~520 ft) long innertube slide ‘Space Glider’, and now that the heat waves are finally here, there may be no better time to hit the water park and try out the sort of experience that was once only available to VR roller coaster riders.

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  • Flikr

    I’ve got no technical experience concerning ultrasonic tracking, but I feel like anything based on sound would have at least a little interference from the user screaming the whole time.

    • DjArcas

      Worked fine for Samba De Amigo, plus the vast majority of QuadCopters/Drones use ultrasonic tracking for height.

    • F1ForHelp

      I don’t think there would be interference. Human sound doesn’t create anything in the ultrasound frequencies. Also I don’t think they’re looking for that high of an accuracy or anything. I’m not sure what intricacies are required for keep immersion in a fast amusement park attraction.

      (No research or reliable knowledge was used to make this comment. It’s just what I thought of at the top of head.)

    • Joe

      No it would make no difference at all. The only thing that would trip it up would be random hanging objects. It looks for its own click rebounding and can easily ignore random sounds.

    • Tim Lucas

      No, ULTRASONIC is the key word. It also has its own signature that it looks for a repeated bounce off surrounding objects. It will work in really loud environments just fine.

  • Stephen Greenwood

    Hey Scott! Thanks for the great write up.

    Ballast is an American company. We partnered with wiegand.maelzer, which is a German company to make this possible. Please be in touch if you’d like any updates in the future!

    • Hi Stephen. Sorry for the confusion. Updating now!

  • nasprin

    I live near Erding, will try it out next time i go, though the slide they are using it on is pretty slow =)
    Would be cool to use it on the xtreme Faser in Erding (it’s currently closed for women and pretty hard on your bottom) – but the headset would probably rip my head off at this speeds.

  • NooYawker

    Seems like if they made it seem like you were falling into an endless abyss would be more fun.

  • Sven Viking

    Finally, the VR killer app.

    • G-man

      i get it…. because people might drown. thats funny

      • david vincent

        or beheaded :(

  • Foreign Devil

    I think they are missing the point of VR. It is to create an immersive experience where the real thing is not available. If I’m paying to go on a real waterslide I don’t want a screen covering my face. . I want to experience the real thing!

    • Mike Childs

      I think the point is to keep it from being redundant or lame. Riding the same old roller coaster can get boring, but it’s too expensive to replace with new and different coasters all the time. Adding VR gives you the same physical sensation but completely different scenery so it’s a new experience.

      This probably applies less to waterslides than roller coasters, but I can see the appeal, especially for enclosed tubes where all you see is the dark inside of the tube w/ lights anyway. A VR experience would be much more interesting and the splashes more surprising.

    • DanDei

      If done well both effects could combine to an amazing experience. Imagine a rollercoaster that throws you into an intense Airbattle or a fight between X-Wings and Tie Fighters. I think you just need to start with the exact track and then build the VR visuals precisely around the real movements.

      • Jistuce

        Red five, standing by!

      • david vincent

        On-rails VR games again ! ;)
        Indeed if we are looking for the most immersive cockpit experience with true (and decently strong) G forces, rollercoasters are the only way to go. A SW space battle was my first thought too but even a good old mine cart ride would be cool.

    • F1ForHelp

      I think the point is to kill the realism. Which is better? 1. A real slide or 2. an exaggerated fantasy. It’s personal preference at that point, though.

      • Carl Wolsey

        His point his that their whole use of VR is just silly. Firstly, who doesn’t have the money to go out and go on a real slide? It’s hardly some exclusive unattainable thing. Secondly, for those that do go out, they don’t want to be in VR – why would they when they have the real thing? They ARE getting this wrong. VR is best when it allows you to use do something that would otherwise be impossible for you – for whatever reason, be it cost or that fact that it is actually impossible.

        • F1ForHelp

          That would probably be my reason for not going on the slide in VR, to be honest. And that might be way for most people after they’ve gotten over that gimmicky part about it. So I completely agree with you.

          It would only be the niche of people using the slide as an immersion factor that would be actually wanting the VR aspect of it. For those people, they probably see VR as the main attraction, while the slide only helps them get immersed. That was the point of my previous comment. I think it’s just personal preference.

          But, yeah, I do believe that these sort of rides aren’t going to be in demand for that long.

  • Nadim Alam

    This is all good, but the problem with these VR experiences is that the software are so poorly designed! Over the weekend i went to Alton towers (UK) and tried there first VR rollercoaster, the scene in the headset did not match up well with the actual rollercoaster, they could have made it amazing, but instead it was a bad disconnect.

  • MasterElwood

    I tried this in Erding back in April – and it wasn’t THAT new then! So this is not “news”.

  • I don’t get why adding VR to such attractions. Reality is already cool enough. And a mobile headset can’t surely make it better

    • Carl Wolsey

      They’re basically misusing VR. Ignoring it’s strengths.