Part of the appeal of riding a roller coaster simulator over the real thing is that you can experience track designs that are physically impossible in the real world. ROCO, a new coaster simulator, takes that idea one step further by letting riders draw their own track designs and then ride them, complete with motions that match the on-screen action.
Designing and building a roller coaster in real life that provides lots of thrills is easy, but designing a roller coaster in real life that’s also safe for human riders and doesn’t subject them to unbearable g-forces is where things get a lot harder. It’s why games like RollerCoaster Tycoon are so popular, as they let players design their own tracks and then ride them through a first-person in-game experience. The only thing that’s missing is actually feeling what it’s like to ride a wacky coaster layout, but that’s what ROCO promises.
Created by a Swiss company called INNTQ which specialises in motion platforms, the ROCO simulator is small enough to install in a modern arcade setting or amusement park (it weighs over 726 kg but is designed to be easily moved around using a standard pallet jack tool) and offers the chance for two riders to experience some of the thrills of riding a real roller coaster through a pair of motion-controlled seats that can each support passengers up to 265 pounds — seatbelts are required.
Once strapped in, users face a 75-inch 4K flatscreen TV a few feet away as well as a smaller touchscreen interface located on the seats’ handlebars. Users select the environment where they want their virtual coaster to be built — like a lush green valley full of lakes and bears — and then use their fingers to draw the actual track layout. Each ride is limited to two minutes in length, and the simulator’s computer automatically determines the hills and elevations of the track sections before virtually rendering the whole experience in real-time with matching sound effects and synced seat movements.
INNTQ doesn’t plan to sell the ROCO simulators but instead intends to partner with businesses that would receive the machines for free and then share the revenues with the company. With a price per ride expected to be around $US4 ($6), it probably won’t take long for that approach to become extremely profitable.