We have all thought of flying at one point or another and now thanks to an amazing virtual simulator known as Birdly, we can experience the flying in virtual reality. It has been created Swiss artist and software developer, Max Rheiner and he says that Birdly stimulates the user’s senses, all of them, to impart the feeling of flying based on human dreams.
He said, “People who have dreams about flying, they can just fly without training and they have great feelings. We tried to model this experience like those dreams.” In order to use the simulator, users are required to lie flat on their stomachs and have their hands sprawled out. The user also outs on special VR goggles that have been programmed with actual landscapes and skylines of American cities.
Users can ascend or dive by tilting their body up and down. The machine blows wind with the appropriate force depending upon the situation and even creates smell relatable to the landscape below, thus allowing the users to experience a salt-air aroma when they are above oceans and industrial fragrance when they are flying over cities.
The project started off as a research project at the Zurich University of Arts where Rheiner led a small group of students. They began experimenting with the VR setup last November with the aim being very simple; ‘to embody the experience of flying like a bird through a full-motion simulator.’ The biggest challenge that the team had to overcome was creating motion-control equipment from scratch and then transforming it into something that was able to understand and match the human’s understanding of a bird’s flight.
Over six months, Rheiner along with his team developed and tested multiple prototypes before the team finalized the Birdly system. It is scheduled to go into production soon and it is being hoped that the system will be used for therapy as well, apart from entertainment.
Carrie Fitzsimmons, executive director of Le Laboratoire Cambridge, where the device was on display earlier this month, suffered vertigo while using the device – such real is the experience that it offers. She says, “It’s an immersive experience and different from any other flight simulators that you would typically use with a joystick. You are actually fulfilling the dream of what it would feel like to be flying.”
The technology is, as of now, touring America and the responses so far from the testers are amazing and positive. One tester, Kip Fenton said, “I’ve always wanted to fly. It’s sort of one of those fantasy things where, if I could be an animal, I would be a bird. I might have been more adventurous if I had known it was going to be that quick. I would pay a hundred bucks to do this for a half-hour.”
Let’s see how soon this device goes into production and what the price tag for this amazing simulator is. One thing is for sure, until someone really builds an Iron Man suit, this is the next best thing to experiencing what flying feels like.