Inside Look: SeaWorld Orlando unleashes ‘Kraken’

By Ashley Carter, Attractions Insider
Last Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2017, 3:17 PM EDT

Grab your headsets and enter the virtual world of Kraken Unleashed, SeaWorld Orlando's re-themed roller coaster.

The 17-year-old thrill ride has a new look, inside and out. The steel track is still the same, but when riders board, they'll be taken on an undersea journey, a virtual reality.

A few things haven't changed: riders will still have to use shoulder restraints. What's new are the headsets, which are attached to the crossbar.

The headsets fit tightly over riders' faces, but can be adjusted. Speakers are also incorporated into the headset. Note: Riders have the option of not wearing the VR headset for a classic Kraken experience.

The twists and turns are the same, however, in the virtual scene, riders are surrounded by water, fishes and other sea creatures. Combined, it creates strikingly immersive experience.

Brian Morrow, V.P. of Theme Park Experience Design at SeaWorld, talking about how the addition of virtual reality enhances Kraken Unleashed:

Here are a few takeaways from the ride.

Updated queue

For Kraken Unleashed, SeaWorld updated the queue to fit the new experience. The new Kraken creature, which is more squid-like than eel-like, is featured in the cave.  Instead of bright yellows and reds, the colors are now blues, light greens and white, again, to fit the ride’s new theme. Posters have also been added to create a more “research facility” feel.

Wait times

Riders may notice a longer loading and unloading process with the new Kraken. The ride itself only lasts about two minutes, but the turnaround has increased due to the addition of the VR headset. Each headset has to be adjusted and secured onto riders. Once the ride is over, each headset is sanitized before the next group of riders use them.

But fear not, because SeaWorld has a solution to long lines: Spot Saver. Yes, Kraken Unleashed will feature a virtual queue of sorts. Riders will receive a designated time to ride, instead of standing and waiting in line.  Times can be reserved through SeaWorld’s mobile app or at a kiosk near Kraken’s entrance. Spot Saver will be free. (So, kind of like Disney’s FastPass+)

The VR headsets

The headsets, which can be adjusted, fit snugly over your face. I normally wear glasses, but took them off for the headset. They also feature speakers. Make sure you adjust those properly over your ears so you can hear the movie properly.

The headsets are a nice addition, although not a requirement. If you just want to enjoy a traditional roller coaster experience, you can skip putting it on.

The VR experience

My biggest fear before riding Kraken Unleashed was the virtual reality component.

Would it synchronize well with the coaster? Would it be blurry? Would it make me dizzy? Much to my surprise, it all worked really well together, creating a new experience. The VR movie was a little blurry at first, but that was just because it took a minute for my eyes to adjust. Once the ride was going, the twists and turns of the coaster matched the twists and turns of the video.  You can also look around the VR space, if you want, to see what’s above, below and to the side of you.

Flexibility

Even if you're not a fan of VR, you have to admit it offers a lot of flexibility to the theme parks that utilize it. SeaWorld could easily update Kraken with a new adventure. A Halloween-themed Kraken? Just create a new video. It’ll be interesting to see if SeaWorld and other theme parks implement virtual reality in other attractions.

Kraken Unleashed will have its grand re-opening Friday.


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