At the end of last month Thorpe Park announced that it was rebranding one of its rollercoasters with a Walking Dead theme, creating the world's first rollercoaster based on a TV series that was based on a comic featuring zombies. Now the park has just announced that the ride will literally take on part of the plot of Monsters, Inc as well, by harvesting rider screams to recharge their phones.
Thorpe Park's own research claims that 68 per cent of the youth of today are terrified their phone will run out of battery, so this solution uses fear to alleviate fears, which is a weird sort of irony. It's done using a form of kinetic energy harvesting developed by Queen Mary University London, with energy-harvesting blocks attached to the train soaking up forces affecting the carriage.
Before you start moaning about how that has nothing to do with screaming, Thorpe Park promises that some of the energy comes from riders going nuts so the more they scream the more power is generated. It just so happens that it's generating power using g-force and vibrations from the ride as well. I can't imagine the difference screaming louder makes will be that significant, but that doesn't sound as good when you're trying to market a rollercoaster based on a TV show that's getting increasingly hard to watch.
The power itself is stored inside a special power management unit, which staff can then plug into the mobile charging station for guests to plug in their phones.
Dr Joe Briscoe, School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London said,:
“Using vibrations and movement from The Walking Dead: The Ride has allowed us to harness the stray energy that is all around us. This is an exciting concept that will undoubtedly be used more frequently in the future. The system uses a mini energy harvester to capture the kinetic energy, transferring it to a separate electrical circuit and storage unit, which is enough to charge a mobile phone.”
It may not be the first step into a dystopian Monsters, Inc-style society where we regularly traumatise children to power our phones, but it's a nice enough gimmick for a theme park to recoup some of its presumably-immense power costs. And bring people into the park to try it out for themselves.
Walking Dead: The Ride is set to open from "Easter", which is this weekend. Unfortunately Thorpe Park hasn't been any more specific with a launch date.