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Richard

The technology of ups and downs

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I found this interesting article which talks a bit about Dreamworld and Luna Park in Melbourne. It's nothing too groundbreaking, but it does tell you that neither of these parks are getting a Robocoaster. I must say I didn't agree with much of the article. One point I found a little narrow-minded was the mention of the "roller coaster wars" that happened at the turn of the century (that's 1990s-early 2000s), especially from an Australian perspective. The fact that the only new coasters built during this time in Australia were Road Runner Rollercoaster (family coaster), Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster (another family coaster) and I'll even be generous and add Runaway Reptar Roller Coaster (family coaster) to this list, even if it really came after this "war" finished. The article can be read here http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/09/...5532173084.html.

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It's a place where ghouls are immortalised in paint. The queue is always long, even when the weather's grim. The Ghost Train is Luna Park's most popular ride. The technology is fairly basic. Cars trundle. Doors clatter. Darkness beckons. Nostalgia reigns supreme. Technology, according to the managing director Jason Todd, is "not a factor" at the park. They use it when they have to - to keep the old rides safe.But when it comes to thrills, Todd believes in style, not hi-tech content. "Our guests want a thrill, they want to be exhilarated," he says. "But anything that makes you feel like you're strapped to the bottom of your dad's car and stops and starts unexpectedly will give you that." Luna Park's pride and joy - the Scenic Railway - is the world's longest continuously running roller-coaster for a reason. There are plenty of stops, starts, ups, downs and white knuckles. "We've tried to recreate the historical element of the park by rebuilding the station on the railway," Todd says. "When Luna Park was first built in 1912 there were lots of elements taken from exotic locations around the world - Greek temples, Egyptian temples. Over the past 20 to 30 years a lot of them have disappeared and we're trying to bring historical references back to the park." The station revamp goes public this week. The aim, in inimitable Luna Park style, is to celebrate nostalgia and fun fair kitsch. Todd admits, however, that the debate over old versus new technology comes up every time he buys a new ride. While Luna Park has gone for the slippers-and-hot-chocolate approach to thrill-rides, other parks worldwide are buying - literally - into high technology. Awarded the Best New Technology prize at the amusement park industry's international trade fair last year, the Robocoaster is the technological antithesis of Luna Park's Scenic Railway. Its British inventor, Gino De-Gol, spent 20 years designing robots for car manufacturers before he decided to turn his hand to entertainment. "I got fed up with making cars," he says. "My friends called it a mid-life crisis. I called it a moment of vision." De-Gol's vision was to build the first robot in the world that could carry passengers. "The idea was to stick a seat on the end of an industrial robot," he says. "It turned out to be much more difficult than that." De-Gol teamed up with a German robot manufacturer to turn his idea into a theme park ride. Today there are 25 Robocoasters worldwide - 20 of them in Legoland parks in Denmark and Germany. The technology, according to De- Gol, is fairly simple, in robotic terms. "A roller-coaster goes up, down, right, left and back and forward. In a simulator you get the perception of movement by looking at a screen. The Robocoaster takes the simulator and puts it on a ride itself - it's like a gondola on the end of a giant arm." Like any robot, he says, the ride can be programmed to adapt its "behaviour". "Teenagers are never satisfied until they've had a near-death experience. But you also get the bag holders who say ‘You'll never get me on that thing'. This ride can be extreme - it can pull twice the force of gravity, like a jet fighter experience - or it can be gentle like a cable car ride." Flexibility and public fascination - the workings of the robot are open for everyone to see - make his invention a winner, says De-Gol. But theme parks in Australia are not so sure. "The roller-coaster wars over the past few years have ended in a sobering review," says Stephen Gregg, the CEO of Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. "Some parks have pushed themselves to the limit in terms of financial viability. But you don't have to spend $40 million every two years. There are only so many ways you can go round on a roller-coaster - you need a mix of rides." A fully installed Robocoaster - on tracks and capable of carrying thousands of people every hour - costs $US10 million ($A14.3 million). At that price, Gregg says, it is "not on our radar at this time". Instead he's gone for The Claw, at a cost of $6 million - a bargain in international theme park terms. Launched this month, it's a ride that draws on old as well as new technology. "It's based on a pendulum which is as old as Galileo. But computers control tonnes of steel which have to move at a certain point. It is simple, but the safety is hi-tech." Like his counterparts at Luna Park, Gregg feels that thrill-seekers are looking for the right mix of rides rather than advanced technology. "Some of our most popular rides use old technology," Gregg says. "We've had the Wipeout since 1993 and it's still one of our most popular. "The idea is you get washed around in a big wave. It spins 360 degrees and hangs upside down. People like it because they don't get sick but they still get the adrenalin rush." Back at Melbourne's Luna Park, Todd is circumspect about Robocoaster for different reasons. "It doesn't fit the context of what Luna Park is trying to achieve. If you're outdoors and you want to go on a roller-coaster why not ride one? "There's nothing like feeling the wind in your face and tears, because you're blinded by the wind. Simulated rides are simulated rides. We've got a beautiful old roller-coaster that's completely unique. Why simulate that?"

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An interesting article richard. i'd like ot know more about the robocoaster... anyone got a site that has more info? Its interesting to see Dreamworld rule it out flatly, but it sounds like its not the sort of thing for any australian park in the way it is described to operate...

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Quite an interesting read. I found this bit interesting though:

A fully installed Robocoaster - on tracks and capable of carrying thousands of people every hour - costs $US10 million ($A14.3 million). At that price, Gregg says, it is "not on our radar at this time".
Tottaly unique ride experience that cycles "Thousands of people per hour" and only costs $14.3 million? Damm, Gregg is a tough cookie to please. The next ride had wanna be good ;-)

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It also anooys me how he says there are only so many ways you can go round on a roller coaster, you can go on wood, on steel, in a twister layout or out and back, flying, spinning, 4th dimesion, swinging, inverted, floorless, sitdown, standing up, launching, diving, backwards, leaning fowards like a motorbike, indoors, outdoors, shuttle, reverse incline, water dumping, dueling, racing, water coaster, geeze, he is ignnorant of the whole theme park industry, all of SFMMs or CPs coasters manage to be different.

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im reading the specs on the robocoaster website... it lists each unit as holding 2 persons. looking at the cartoon images on the site, it would seem that each unit takes up a circle of about 10 metres in diameter at least. now lets say its a one minute ride, add at least 15 seconds on each side, for load and unload. so each cycle from the time the guest loads to the time they unload, is 90 seconds. 2 guests per unit, 90 seconds per ride, thats 40 cycles per hour, or 80 guests per hour. they show banks of these units lined up, so the theory would be to have multiple units all working together. to achieve 1000 pax per hour, that would require more than 12 units. not including queue line or pathways, loading areas, control booths, power supplies, safety zones and theming, thats more than 120 square metres just for the ride portion of the attraction... so lets say double that to allow for all the ancilliary parts of the attraction. now because these rides have a high exhilirating, as i read above, 2 G's or more... this will not be a ride for everyone. so you're able to churn through 1000 pax per hour at an expense of 240 square metres worth of land, and you're going to be able to please the 20 percent of your GP that can handle 2 G's. so lets say the park has 10,000 people in it. its not a high number but its not low either. 20% of your GP will ride it, thats 2000... so it means that in a 7 hour day, that 20% could ride it 4 times if they got in in the first hour, and 3 times if they got in in the second. On top of this, and i mean no offence to anyone, but the maximum double occupancy SWL is 200Kgs. now i weigh 105Kgs, im 6 foot flat, and i know a lot of other enthusiasts who would want to ride this sort of thing would be similar dimensions. so suddenly our 2000 pax who WILL ride it is decreased some more simply because of the SWL. the fact that the ride is built from aluminium, and uses brushless electric motors means it doesnt have the guts that some other rides do. its a car building robot thats been retrofitted into a ride to gain a bigger market for the same device. its like using an electric fan motor to power a V8 Supercar. i've just glanced at the site again and lists its width as being 11.2metres.. i assume they are allowing for the safety and load operator area, so the 10 metre diameter is pretty much spot on. now the fact that it runs on a basic PC design using windows, with internet access, soundcard, etc.... this is sounding like your generic home computer thats been retrofitted to do the job. how often do you get a blue screen of death? or a "we're sorry but this program has encountered an error and has to close" message? imagine that happening while you're spinning at 4.9metres per second...? i can see this idea being taken up by a manufacturer who knows what they're doing, building it with the necessary parts to make it robust, with a custom built console designed for the job, rather than a windows computer that is obsolete before they finish designing the software for the hardware... a manufacturer who builds RIDES, not car manufacturing equipment... thats what this concept needs to launch it into the thrill ride market....

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I would guess that the ride is an upcharge attraction, I do know riders can program their own sequence so I dont think it would be one of the main thrill rides, its a bit like one of those bungee rocket things or maybe a skycoaster, they only hold 2 people and are an upcharge thing

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