What your mind expects and what your eyes see is a crucial element to the locomotion in VR experiences. As much as many developers would like to have everyone moving freely at high speeds, VR motion sickness is a real concern so things like teleporting must be implemented. There are a few gaming experiences that are experimenting with ways to combat motion sickness, but some are taking the immersion of VR to the extreme. Birdly, an immersive flight platform distributed by D3D Cinema, is one of those extremes.
On the expo floor at SXSW, a quickly growing crowd caught my attention and I moved to see what people were huddled around. What I saw was a headset-wearing gentleman sprawled across a platform that was rising, falling, and turning as he adjusted and flapped his arms. In this demo, he was flying around downtown New York City in a proprietary program and it looked like an exhilarating experience.
We previewed an earlier prototype of Birdly a couple years ago, but what we experienced at SXSW is what will be shipped out when ordered. From the outside, the flying rig looked pretty uncomfortable but I got into it and started flying like a bird naturally. Your arms control the wings and your hands have a grip that serves as the primary feathers for turning and diving. The platform responds immediately as you do such actions, and will rise or fall as you get further or closer to the ground. When you’re diving quickly but then turn your feathers upward and start flapping, it really feels like you’re fighting against the wind. It does help that the rig has a medium sized fan attached at the head that takes the immersion to another level. As far as comfort, it’s not as bad as it looks but you’ll start to get quite a back workout the longer you play. I also had no motion sickness feelings at all and I’m fairly susceptible to them.
Birdly is certainly not a product for consumers but is something that could draw a crowd as a pay-to-play attraction in arcades. The device is available to be shipped currently and includes everything you need including the computer and VR headset and the full experience is surprisingly compact.