Droomvlucht [Dreamflight] dark ride.Dutch theme park Efteling, our 2017 Theme Park Insider Award winner as the world's best theme park and 2018 Theme Park Insider Tournament winner, has opened a new virtual reality version of its popular
Why create a VR version of a ride that people can experience IRL? Because some Efteling visitors have not been able to experience the Dreamflight. As the late Theme Park Insider correspondent Daniel Etcheberry noted in 2012, Droomvlucht was not accessible to visitors with physical disasbilities. The ride, which opened in 1993, could not accommodate wheelchairs — not even in its load/unload areas for transfers.
While now rare, this lack of accommodation is not unprecedented, especially for rides developed before the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and the industry began developing more accessible designs worldwide in response. Disneyland's submarine ride might provide the most relevant comparison with Efteling's Droomvlucht, as it also is completely inaccessible to anyone who cannot climb a narrow staircase... and it provides a media-based alternative to riders with disabilities in response.
VR offers the promise of a more immersive alternative, with ability to allow visitors to select their focal point within a complete field of vision. Efteling also includes 4D-style wind and smell effects to enhance the experience. But even a VR alternative still isolates the visitor with a physical disability, as they cannot experience the attraction with their friends who can ride the regular attraction.
And that's where Efteling's VR alternative does something revolutionary. Efteling has incorporated microphones and headphones with its VR experience, so that the visitor seeing the ride through VR can communicate with their friends on the "regular" ride.
"Until now, VR has often been used for individual experiences. With the use of other techniques such as audio equipment, we have created a group experience that completely stands in line with Efteling and the theme park’s values," Fons Jurgens, Efteling's President and CEO, said in a statement.Tweet
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