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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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