VR experiences offer spectacular sounds and visuals, but they often lack the final element: tactile feedback - when your brain feels like it’s in one place, and your body feels like it’s in another, that disconnect can stop you from losing yourself in the illusion.
The intention of Birdly® is to fulfill people’s ancient dream of flying. With virtual reality (VR) and robotics technology SOMNIACS creates an extremely vivid full-body experience that makes you instantly forget the mechanics and computer codes behind this spectacular apparatus.
This gadget will let users immerse themselves into a world where they can fly by just simply leaning their body forward or sideways. The simulator is rigged in shape of a bird where it lets you fully experience the sensation of soaring like a bird. It features a number of pivots that give feedback of the movements so you don't feel like the reality you laying down with a mask on.
As you can see from the video, the rig looks like a futuristic massage table, with users lying flat on their belly atop the padded frame. Users put on an Oculus HMD (the first development kit) along with headphones, before stretching their arms out on what are essentially wings.
A fan is mounted on the front of the rig simulates wind being blown in the user's face. It also includes a fan that directly points into your head so as it feels the wind blows into your face corresponding to the environment surrounding you. This medium-sized fan maps to closely simulate the speed of which user is flying - the wind blows harder if he decides to dive. You can use it by flapping your arms to increase the magnitude, like how a bird would normally fly.
At the end of the the flaps, there's a navigation control that allows you to twist to turn. It also consists of a motion platform that corresponds to their actions. When he dives, the platform dives as well or whereas he rises or goes through a curve, his body moves along with that
a full-body virtual reality flight simulator that uses multi-hinged flaps and motion feedback to give you a taste of flying like a bird
Birdly includes a fan in front of the user that regulates the speed of the headwind based on how fast you’re flying.
Movement Control - arm movement
have two primary axes of movement--flapping up and down at the shoulders and rotation at the forearm
Visual - Occulus Rift VR Headset
Motion platform - have pivot points that give feedback corresponding to user's actions.
Environment - For now, Birdly users can fly over New York or San Francisco, but Chicago might be in the works, as well as experiences featuring dinosaurs and underwater scenes.
Cost - 189,000 USD. Certainly not a consumer product, but something you have to try
Rarely do Birdly fliers get dizzy or motion sick. Because Birdly incorporates a motion table that instantaneously responds to the flier’s motor commands and synchs with the low-latency VR visuals, there is no disconnect between the brain’s perception and the body’s orientation. Most VR does not ‘take the body with you’ and this detachment is a recipe for nausea.
Think of the difference between driving a car on a winding road vs. riding in the passenger seat — the passenger may be queasy but the driver feels fine. With Birdly, you’re the driver. On the other hand, Birdly is so realistic that vertigo can feel very real. Most fliers subject to vertigo have an initial reaction — they may let out a scream, and then quickly realize that it’s safe and appreciate the exhilaration.
Most people have wondered at some point in their life what it feels like to actually fly under their own volition, like a bird. Given out lack of wings, it might be difficult. Airplanes, helicopters or even wing suits are probably the closest that we've come to flying. Birdly, the full-body VR simulator that we've been talking about is a device that raised the bar up several notches. The research team in Zurich University have combines virtual reality technology with proper hardware that would allow people to fully experience actual flight virtually.
First thing to keep in mind, making users immersed in the sensation of flying is difficult. It's not as easy as giving them a headset with pre-rendered graphic while they are standing up straight. It would 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.
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.
Personally, I think that this is a really cool project that the research team at Zurich University have accomplished. Birdly is, by far, the most immersive VR flying simulator that offers full-body movement control. From many of the reviews and videos I've watched about Birdly, I am very excited to try it myself one day. Even though the cost for buying of these is insanely high ( 189,000USD ) , there are premium attractions that let people participate in trying out for themselves for a short period of time. It might not be as easy as it looks to operate, I am sure that many would love to experience the sensation of falling out of the sky, or rising above tall buildings.
One of the issues I noticed while researching about this project is that it's possible for users to 'fly' into buildings, which would somewhat ruin the immersive sense of actual flying. It shows a black screen for a brief moment whenever the user is virtually inside a building. Also, it's worth to note that the graphics that users see while flying are modeled by human beings and it's not exactly the closest to reality. There are limited scenes that users can choose to fly in. It's not as freely open as Google Earth whereas it offers a world-wide map for anyone to go to.
I expect that these issues would be fixed in the future as virtual reality/ augmented reality technology advances. Also, I would love to see what other similar devices that would come up the next coming year. Birdly is far out of my range, in terms of pricing. to own one. Would human, one day, experience actual flying from the comfort of their home? That question is something we have to wait to answer.