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Fly like a bird with this VR-powered, scent-emitting machine

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 7, 2014
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Current technology and human anatomy may prevent you from soaring like a bird in real life, but a team at the Zurich University of the Arts may just have the next best thing. Their Birdly machine lets you flap your way through the air much like the Red Kite it's modeled after. Motors translate your hand movements to the virtual avian's wings, and an Oculus Rift VR headset gives you an all-too-literal bird's eye view of the scenery -- you probably won't want to look down very often.

The design also replicates some of the subtler environmental cues you'd expect while airborne. A fan simulates headwinds depending on your speed, and you'll smell whatever's below; hopefully, it's all pleasant scents like the ground and trees. Birdly still needs some tweaks to avoid making users queasy, and it's intended as an art installation that you likely won't see outside of Zurich. Nonetheless, it's a good demonstration of just how immersive a VR simulation can get -- even if it's simulating the unfamiliar experience of another species.

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