From the days of the first balloon flight (complete with animal passengers), to the invention of the winged suit, to the visions of a Jetsonesque future full of flying cars and jetpacks, humans have always been pretty jealous of birds and tried valiantly to replicate their abilities. Now you can feel the freedom of flight—without the danger of a horrific gravity-fuelled death—through the wonders of virtual reality.
Some Very Smart People are predicting virtual reality will be the next big computing platform after mobile, and many of the major tech players like Facebook with its top of the range Oculus Rift, Samsung with its Gear VR, Google with its cheap and cheerful Cardboard and its major investment into Magic Leap and Microsoft with its Hololens are trying to get there first. The augmented and virtual reality market is set to be worth $5.1 billion this year and $150 billion by 2020. And there have already been some amazing uses of the technology. But Birdly is taking it to a new, even more immersive level with a full-body flying system that integrates into Oculus Rift, incorporates arm movements and even replicates the wind in your face as you soar above a city.
As the website says: "Unlike a common flight simulator you do not conquer the sky with a joystick, mouse and lots of buttons: you simply embody a graceful bird. Birdly approaches the dream of flying through combining the best available technology with unconventional design methods. You command your flight with arms and hands which directly correlates to the wings (flapping) and the primary feathers of the bird (navigation). This input is reflected in the flight model of the bird and returned as a physical feedback by the simulator through nick, roll and heave movements."
Birdly, which launched a commercial version late last year after testing it out on thousands of people during 2014 and 2015, has received rave reviews so far. And it also plans to take things to another sensorial level and add aromas in the future (what do chem trails smell like?). No word on whether you will also be able to poo on passersby, drop into the park and eat a few breadcrumbs, or, potentially, swoop in and catch a fish with your talons.
But beware the law of unintended consequences. While there's no doubt the things we humans are doing with VR is impressive, we might not want it to get too realistic. As Dennis Miller evocatively/provocatively said, when an unemployed iron worker can sit in his living room with a Fosters and have sex with Claudia Schiffer for $19.95, "it’s going to make crack look like sanka".