Virtual reality is still a form of technology underappreciated by most consumers and enterprises. Thankfully, things are slowly changing in favor of VR and the technology is being used in many new ways. One particular project, called Birdly, allows people to experience flying.
Birdly Lets Humans Fly, Sort of
Most people have wondered what it would feel like to fly under their own volition, like birds. Given our lack of wings, that is rather difficult. Airplanes, helicopters, and even wingsuits are probably the closest we have come to actually flying so far. Birdly, a new VR simulator, is definitely raising the bar by several notches. In fact, the team combines virtual reality technology with proprietary hardware to allow people to experience actual flight virtually.
Granted, the thought of being immersed in an environment where you have to fly or fall sounds scary at first. However, it can also be a very empowering experience. The Zurich University of the Arts is experimenting with Birdly currently. The project started back in November of 2016. Several months of experimentation and development have yielded a solution which allows the team to take the Birdly system to other locations.
Making people experience the sensation of flying is not a straightforward process. Just letting them wear a VR headset while they are standing up straight will not generate a convincing experience. To counter this problem, the team has developed a full-motion simulator. Users lie flat on their stomach and extend their arms to the sides. This allows for a more immersive experience. Once the user is strapped in, they wear an Oculus VR headset and headphones and start “flying.”
To make everything even more convincing, the Birdly is equipped with a fan which blows wind in the face of the user. This helps create the illusion of flying with the wind or against the wind, depending on the scenario. Once users enter the virtual world, they are given a birds-eye view of San Francisco. There is not much time to just admire the scene as the user better start flapping their arms before tumbling to the ground. Users’ minds are tricked into believing they are actually flying, which is exactly what Birdly aims to achieve.
Having full-motion feedback is impressive, as it is not something most people would associate with virtual reality currently. This might be because few people have such a powerful rig at home. Having the “bed” tilt on occasion only helps immerse the player deeper into the virtual experience. Nearly none of the users suffer from simulator sickness while using Birdly, which is another massive notch in the belt of the team behind this project.
Birdly is not a consumer-grade product, nor will it ever be. Everyone who was looking forward to having such a device at home in the near future will be sorely disappointed. However, we are still in the early stages of VR hardware development. No one knows what type of gadgets we can expect in the future, maybe one day something like Birdly will be available for home use.