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Recreating the feeling of flight using Oculus Rift
June 12, 2014 | By Mike Rose

June 12, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, Video

There have been tons of great demos and prototypes showing off what can be achieved with the Oculus Rift VR hardware, but Birdly may be the most imaginative we've seen to date.

Created by a team at the Zurich University of the Arts, Birdly is an installation, rather than simply a game. Players lie face-down on a platform, and place their arms into wing-like grips on either side.

The Oculus Rift then showed a bird's eye view of the world, with a fan providing a "headwind" for the player to breeze through. Birdly is the experience of being a bird, soaring high above the world, flapping your wings to maintain height and speed.

The whole set-up relies on sensory-motor coupling, with the Oculus Rift embedding a virtual landscape into the user's brain, giving you a real sense of height and flight. The fan even changes speed to regulate the headwind depending on how "quickly" you are flying.

That last idea of changing the speed of the fan in particular was inspired by the Sensorama from Morton Heilig. "At the moment we use olfactoric feedback and thinking about force feedback for the wings," says co-creator Max Rheiner. "We are heavily inspired by dreams of flying."

You can try Birdly out at Swissnex on San Francisco next month, or at Siggraph 2014 in Vancouver in August. And the team is planning to explore more Oculus projects in a similar setting.

"Our next experiment will be to simulate a flying or floating/gliding experience," Rheiner tells me. "You fly in a vertical position, like some imagine a ghost would move. But for this we have to build a totally different motion platform."

"My previous projects were evolving around the topics of out-of-body-experience and augmented reality," he adds. "So I would like to recombine this with my current research."

The team plans to reveal its next project before the end of July.

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Dave Hoskins
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I have no idea whether to laugh uncontrollable, or commend it wholeheartedly.
I guess that's the trouble with VR, from the outside people look ridiculous.

Andrew Wallace
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I can't help but consider anyone who cares whether a new technology looks cool or not an incredibly small minded person.

Dave Hoskins
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I commend it wholeheartedly, but it looks awkward - better?
It is a problem when it comes down to public perceptions, and it'll be a problem for Facebook trying to get people to buy into VR. I suspect it'll be another bubble.

I don't think this vision will inspire many parents:

Why not have fun and take a real ticket in front of you.

There's a long way to go, and they know it needs to be less awkward, so good luck to them.

Connor Fallon
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This is a great and creative use of the technology and I would love to have the chance to try it sometime. Too bad I am on the wrong coast!

Darren Atherton
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Yes! Its about time, bring it on!

Bruno Xavier
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Call me arrogant, but I hope Oculus bombs. This is not gaming to me, I'm tired of these fancy dumb gadgets.
VR will be a thing only the day it does not require any device attached to the body.