Birdly VR Machine Is a Full-Body Flight Simulator

Man’s dream of flying has yet to materialize, as planes and jet packs don’t really qualify. Birdly, a virtual reality machine based on Oculus Rift, might help with the illusion of being among the clouds, though.

The Birdly full-body flight simulator was developed by a team of researchers from the Zurich University of Arts, comprised from Max Rheiner, Fabian Troxler, Thomas Tobler, and Thomas Erdin. The team collaborated with BirdLife-Naturzentrum Neeracherried for this incredible feat.

According to its creators, this weird contraption “is an installation which explores the experience of a bird in flight. It tries to capture the mediated flying experience, with several methods. Unlike a common flight simulator you do not control a machine you embody a bird, the Red Kite. To evoke this embodiment we mainly rely on the sensory-motor coupling. The participant can control the simulator with his hands and arms, which directly correlates to the wings and the primary feathers of the bird. Those inputs are reflected in the flight model of the bird and displayed physically by the simulator through nick, roll and heave movements.”

Using an Oculus Rift HMD (head-mounted display), Birdly gives its wearer the impression that he is gliding through wuthering heights in the body of a Red Kite. Many are the ones who have wanted at some point in their lives to be or feel like a bird of prey, and Birdly can help them achieve just that.

This wouldn’t be realistic if there wasn’t anything else besides the visual aspect of the flight. However, the team added some sensory tricks to the mix: “To intensify the embodiment we include additional sonic, olfactoric and wind feedback. Soundwise you perceive only the roaring of the wind and the flaps of the wings. The olfactoric feedback is based on the location which the bird flies over in the scenery and ranges from the scent of a forest, soil, to several other odors of the wilderness. According to the speed of the bird the simulator regulates the headwind with a fan.”

Now all that these researchers have to do is to find a propelling system capable of lifting Birdly from the ground up to a reasonable height. Or they could use this in 0 gravity, as the sensation of weightlessness would make things a lot more interesting.

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