According to the inventor, Swiss artist and software developer Max Rheiner, Birdly stimulates all the user’s senses to give the user a sense of flying, based on human dreams. “People who have dreams about flying, they can just fly without training and they have great feelings,” he said. “We tried to model this experience like those dreams.”
To use the machine, users are required to lie flat on their stomachs with their hands sprawled out. They also strap on special VR goggles that are programmed with real skylines and landscapes of American cities. Tilting the body up and down produces the effect of ascending or diving. The machine even blows wind with the appropriate force and recreates smells that relate to the landscape below. So users experience a salt-air aroma as they fly over the sea, and and industrial odors while gliding over cities.
Birdly started as a research project at the Zurich University of Arts, with Rheiner leading a small group of students. They began experimenting with the virtual reality setup last November, with a simple goal: to embody the experience of flying like a bird through a full-motion simulator. Their biggest challenge was starting with motion-control equipment built from scratch, and tuning it to intuitively match the human understanding of a bird’s flight.