Ever since I got to see the French Alps through an eagle’s perspective, in that awesome video that went viral last year, I’ve wondered what it feels like to to fly. Well, now I know — and you can too — thanks to a team of Swiss designers who built an immersive bird flight simulator that's in San Francisco only through Aug. 8.
Called Birdly, the contraption uses a combination of an Oculus Rift headset, headphones, a fan, and this weird looking padded frame (which tilts and pitches) to mimic the experience of flying like a bird — right down to flapping your arms, and using your hands to gain speed, altitude, and turn.
After popping on the Oculus Rift goggles, and clambering into a kind of lying prone position, the black fades into virtual downtown San Francisco, from hundreds of feet in the air.
With the fan blowing air into my face (which adjusts based on how fast you fly), and the sounds of the wind in my ears, it all felt fucking real — I mean real to the point I was afraid to dive bomb the Tenderloin until I mentally reminded myself that it was a simulation. Once I convinced myself it was a virtual world, and after a little practice, I was swooping around San Francisco, doing Death Star trench runs through the FiDi.
It’s not perfect: For example, the version of Oculus that designer Max Rheiner and his team have is out of date, so the 3D models don’t look that great. Also they hadn’t hooked up the Smell-O-Vision-like component.
But it didn’t matter. Birdly is fucking awesome. And if this is the prototype, then the next version is going to be out of control. This is definitely the future I signed up for.
Check it out for yourself this Thursday at the Exploratorium as part of the museum's After Dark program before Birdly leaves San Francisco Friday.
Photo from Thinkstock