Do you guys remember Nelly Furtado? Not the recent nasty Nelly that sold out and went all ghetto booty for popularity’s sake, but the original quirky little Canadian hippy chick Nelly that sang “I’m like a bird” from the tree tops. Well, it seems young Nelly’s dreams have finally come true! Virtually.
The dream of flying like a bird is one of the most common in human history, and believe it or not, even the ancient Egyptians were recording dreams of bird-like flight on papyrus. In more modern times though, it is said that this dream is an expression of complete freedom; of fluid three dimensional agility. This is something that is impossible as a human without some form of mechanical assistance, and that’s what makes this a special dream. The fantasy of going beyond what it is to be human; beyond our physical limitations… That’s the attraction.
Enter Swiss team, Somniacs. Headed by media artist Max Rheiner, these pioneers have taken the leap and finally brought this long standing human dream to virtual life with their incredible creation, Birdly. From what started out as a research project at the Zurich University of the Arts, Birdly has quickly formed into one of the most interesting and ground breaking uses of Virtual Reality we’ve seen yet. After only two and a half short years of existence as a concept, what they’ve managed to achieve is pretty damn awesome.
Birdly uses the already existing Oculus Rift for the VR interface, but where it comes into its own is Somniacs’ development of complementary hardware and software to round out the experience. In doing so, the team has introduced a whole new level of immersion and brings us one tiny step closer to knowing what it actually feels like to be on the wing and soaring above the landscape.
As you can see, the controller is a horizontal bed that you lie face down on with axis movement for flapping your wings, tilting motion for your lateral control, and probably best of all, you are provided with physical feedback via wind, smell and touch as you fly through the sky. By putting you in the perspective of the bird and assaulting the senses from all angles, this dream simulator is the stuff of, well… dreams! Imagine the feeling of freedom: Wind on your face, ocean spray filling your nostrils whilst using the air currents to gain lift. This is a whole new kind of experience and one we’d love to try.
Watch the video below from the guys over at Tested as they speak with Rheiner about the development of Birdly and how it all works. Will this end up in our living rooms? Not unless you’re Kanye. But if this turned up at a technology show somewhere, you can bet your fried potato we’d be all over it like a seagull on a chip. CA-CAW!