I flew over snowcapped mountains with the wind in my face. Actually the mountains were virtual and the wind was just two fans blowing at my head. But, if you've ever wanted to be Superman, the folks at Mindride have you covered. That is if you're fine being strapped into a harness and shoving a sweat soaked Oculus Rift on your face.
At the annual AWE (Augmented World Expo), virtual reality experience company Mindride showed off a demo of its latest interactive experience. The Airflow "ride" places individuals in a harness and hangs them horizontally in the classic flying position. It then recreates soaring through the air thanks to an Oculus Rift and some motion trackers placed on your arms. Because I lack the time and expendable cash to start leaping off mountains and out of planes with a wingsuit and I'm pretty sure jetpacks will never actually be a thing, this seemed like my best option to soar through the heavens.
First off, like most VR experiences, you look pretty ridiculous to an observer. Also, thanks to the odd purple-tinted room at the Santa Clara Convention Center it kind of looked like I'd joined a sex club with very low standards. But, once I had gone through the strap in, trained the system to identify my movements with the assistance of the very nice staff and placed a sweat covered Rift on my face, I was ready to enjoy the power of flight.
The experience itself was fun. It wasn't mind blowing or life changing. It was more, "hey this is new because I'm not sitting in a chair or standing up." To be fair, the system is still a prototype. The graphics are sub-par and I quickly reached the edge of the mountains I was flying through. But I sort of felt like I was actually flying thanks to the VR world, the fans and of course the harness. In my experience, sort of flying is better than not flying.
I've never tried a Mindride experience before, so I can only assume based on the well-lit photos on their site that Mindride produces some high-quality experiences. I'm pretty sure the Airflow will be tweaked before being introduced to the general public. According to a post about the experience this first version of Airflow was built with only four poses to control your flight. But even with just those poses and the head gestures, the Airflow demo was already fully booked at the event.
VR gives us the opportunity to do things we wouldn't normally do without putting our lives in danger. Games are the easy pitch, but experiences might be what gets the population more comfortable with VR in their home and as an activity worth dropping a few bucks on. Because even if you look a bit odd to the outside world, who doesn't want to be Superman?