Flying like a Birdly
From 10th to 17th of March, Birdly, a virtual reality flight simulator was showcased in India, namely in Bangalore and Chennai. With a huge feedback from the media and the public, this event really took off in India. To quote journalist Allan Moses Rodricks from The Hindu, “I open my eyes and I’m in the air. High above the cityscape I glide on the currents and soar over the towering skyscrapers. I flap my wings as I drift over buildings and speed past blurring windows. No I’m not in a dream. I’m on Birdly.”
Birdly arrived on a Sunday afternoon to a bit of a rocky start. When it reached the swissnex India office, we realized that one of the boxes will just not fit through our gate. However, even before the flights were supposed to start officially, the Birdly crew, Thomas Tobler and Ron Lux, were finished setting it up and generously giving the inauguration flights to the swissnex team. It was clear to the team instantly that this project would be a real crowd puller.
First of all, for getting the Birdly experience, you mount the, admittedly strange-looking, bird and put your hands on the wings. The bird will then be brought into flight position, horizontally. As soon as you put on the Oculus Rift goggles, you start flapping the wings and get the feeling of flying like a bird. The movements are very intuitive and looking around skyscrapers of San Francisco is fascinating. You can even fly through the double-decker bridge if you manage to get there on time or reach Switzerland by flying into one of the advertisements mounted on the skyscraper in the 3D landscape. Most people, old & young, understood how to operate Birdly within a few seconds. However, people with experience in gaming had an advantage.
The flights lasted for around two minutes. However, the feeling of being a bird, a red kite to be exact, lasted much longer. The best part of this project was seeing the joy of people during and after having tried Birdly. Everyone was incredibly excited to have tried something so different to what we are used to, something that might be available more widely in a couple of years.
Birdly was showcased at swissnex India and Rangoli Metro Art Center in Bangalore as well as IIT Madras in Chennai. With the different location, we were able to take Birdly to a wide variety of people and over 1’700 people got the chance to fly.
The project Birdly was supported by Pro Helvetia, Buhler, and SWISS. The project was developed at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) under Professor Max Rheiner.
By Salome Aggeler, Academic Relations & Projects at swissnex India