you do not control a machine you embody a bird
May 8, 2014 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Birdly: An Attempt to Fly. "‘Birdly’ is an installation which explores the experience of a bird in flight. It tries to capture the mediated flying experience, with several methods. [...] Visualized through HMD (Oculus Rift) the participant is embedded in a virtual landscape where his body is the body of a Red Kite. The whole scenery is perceived in the first person perspective of a bird. To intensify the embodiment we include additional sonic, olfactoric and wind feedback. Soundwise you perceive only the roaring of the wind and the flaps of the wings."

It's being developed by a team of four in Zurich.

Here are videos of the prototype being tested!

It's been featured on Swiss TV twice (unsubtitled):

Being tried out by an SRF presenter...
And a more general report on TeleZuri.
posted by Drexen (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brundlefly at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Red kites in flight, catching bacon

(In case you were worried you wouldn't be able to have bacon if you were a red kite.)
posted by rtha at 3:05 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it doesn't include the targeting and splattering with bird poop of the heads of unsuspecting humans on the ground it is not a complete simulation.

Yes, a bird crapped a huge load on my head when I was am innocent little kid parking my bike under a tree by the public pool. No I have not forgiven them. Mark my words, birds! A day will come when I shall have my vengeance!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's pretty cool. Definitely in the "I want a go" category.

As an aside, I'm always surprised when I see this type of engineering-heavy art piece/sculpture accompanied by the kind of language used here. I don't think in years of engineering I've ever met someone who would be able to put together a fairly advanced multiple axis simulator platform and also write in such a pretentious way. I suppose that's why there's more than 1 person involved...
posted by leo_r at 3:16 PM on May 8, 2014

I don't really see what's pretentious about it? It seems like a fairly straightforward description of objectives and methods, unless I'm looking at different text than you're talking about.
posted by NMcCoy at 3:18 PM on May 8, 2014

There's gotta be a rule that says the closer a device simulates a particular virtual reality, the sillier you look when you're using it.

If not, I call dibs.

posted by gottabefunky at 8:27 PM on May 8, 2014

What they really need to do is somehow combine this with the GoPro eagle footage.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:28 PM on May 8, 2014

I'm not entirely certain, but I think to combine this with the GoPro eagle you need to give the eagle six GoPros in a cube shape so you've got coverage in every direction.

Also, they aren't pretentious. They're Swiss. It's a common mistake.

I don't know a lot about the mechanical aspect of this but I'm interested. I see there are pistons or something on the wing joints? I wonder how difficult it is to "flap" the wings? How quickly would you get tired? But I guess having enough force in those pistons to hold your arms up would be good. If you had to hold your arms out the whole time you're flying, that would tire you out, too.

And combining it with the Rift. If the motion tilts you 10 degrees forward, the Rift will register that as you looking down 10 degrees. Would you need to compensate for the motion in the program or does it still feel natural?

The fan blowing air on you is a nice touch.
posted by RobotHero at 10:56 PM on May 8, 2014

Ok, before clicking through, I was definitely envisioning QWOP For Birds.
posted by maryr at 6:11 AM on May 9, 2014

posted by Chutzler at 6:57 AM on May 9, 2014

Have they taken any account of the fact that a Red Kite's eyes are on either side of its head? I don't know, but I imagine they (Kites) have got about a 300 degree view, hardly any of it with both eyes at once. It would be interesting to reproduce that effect, though I imagine your brain would need time to adjust (and more time to readjust when you stopped). You would of course be throwing away a lot of depth perception, which in a way is perverse.

An owl, now...
posted by Segundus at 7:55 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Interesting question, Segundus! Wikipedia seems to indicate that birds of prey in general have strong binocular vision/foveal overlap, so I presume the divergence in Red Kites is not that much more than in owls or humans. (Preyed-upon birds, otoh, do have larger and more divergent FOVs).

Either way, given the way the Oculus works with two separate images, I expect it would be possible to have virtual eyes in different positions/orientations than your real eyes. I wonder if it would also be possible to simulate other avian senses like UV vision, detection of light-polarisation, and (conjected) sight of the earth's magnetic field...
posted by Drexen at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2014

Ah, thanks. Lazy assumption on my part.
posted by Segundus at 10:47 AM on May 9, 2014

Would you need to compensate for the motion in the program or does it still feel natural?

Your brain would compensate for it automatically by moving your head 10 degrees up.
posted by hellphish at 1:28 PM on May 9, 2014

But what I mean is will that feel natural or will it create a disconnect between what you're seeing and what you're feeling?
posted by RobotHero at 2:00 PM on May 9, 2014

This looks like fun.

Another Oculus embodiment experiment: Gender Swap
posted by homunculus at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2014

I want to do this from the perspective of Brewster McCloud.
posted by sonascope at 4:06 AM on May 10, 2014

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