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If anyone doubts China’s capacity to lead rather than follow, this report should come as a rude awakening. China’s new VR theme park is unlike any other in the world. Instead of physical rides like roller coasters and shootout games, it has 35 Virtual Reality rides. These include VR equivalents of roller coasters and shoot-em-up games, as well as spaceships, castles and outsize robots.
Welcome to Oriental Science Fiction Valley, a 330 acre VR theme park in Guizhou province in south west China. Initial reports erroneously stated the cost of the theme park as $1.5 billion. This would have rather made a mockery of one of the principal benefits of VR: lower cost. However, the cost was actually $470 million.
Chen Jianli, the theme park’s CEO explained:
There’s fierce competition in the theme park market right now. We are trying to give customers a new experience by combining modern technologies such as VR and [augmented reality] with traditional recreational facilities. The sci-fi part of it is important for the feeling it creates.
VR theme park novelty
Virtual reality has been used in other theme parks in the past, but always in addition to conventional rides, never as a complete replacement. For example, In the USA, Samsung collaborated with the Texas based Six Flags Entertainment Corporation to create virtual reality rides. Similarly, the Florida-based Legoland combined a real roller coaster with VR to create the Great Lego Race VR Coaster. That's obviously not the same as a true VR theme park.
The Oriental Science Fiction Valley theme park, however, relies largely, almost entirely on VR on all its rides. The Chinese authorities took a conscious decision to locate this VR theme park in one of the poorest provinces in China, in the hope of generating a tourist boom that could benefit the local economy. Apple computers has a data centre in the province.
VR is seen as a new growth area for China, and this latest investment shows that they are more than just dipping their toes into the water.