Flying like a Bird – Virtual Reality

Creator Max Rheiner calls his virtual-reality flying device, Birdly, “the happy machine” because of how exhilarated it makes people. It’s also an awkward machine.

Before I can take my turn flying like a bird, I have to shimmy face-down onto a padded platform and strap on a bulky headset. Then I stretch my arms out and flap like crazy.

Once the simulation starts, though, I stop worrying about the ungainly pose I’m presenting to the people around me, both those waiting to use the machine and any curious passersby outside the window.

There’s whistling in my ears and a fan blowing a breeze at my face. I’m soaring over New York City.

Birdly is the first virtual-reality device to be demonstrated at Le Laboratoire Cambridge, a culture lab in Kendall Square. This week, anyone who wants to virtually soar through the air can test out the simulator like I am.

“I was always quite fascinated with flying,” Rheiner says. A media artist and lecturer at Zurich University of the Arts, Rheiner worked with two collaborators to create the first Birdly prototype in spring 2014.

Rheiner had experimented with hobbies like paragliding and drone flying, but for his virtual-reality device he wanted people to experience flight under their own power. “Flying is one of the oldest dreams of humankind,” he says. “We wanted to make the dream come true.”

more : Elizabeth Preston