Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Flying-Dream Machine

"That was great. I loved it. The turning and the diving was all pretty straightforward."
"I've always wanted to fly. It's sort of one of those fantasy things where, if I could be an animal, I would be a bird."
"I might have been more adventurous if I had known it was going to be that quick. I would pay a hundred bucks to do this for a half-hour."
Kip Fenton, 59, software developer, Cambridge, Massachusetts

"Birdly is actually the dream of flying come true."
"People who have dreams about flying, they can just fly without training and they have great feelings. We tried to model this experience like those dreams."
Max Rheiner, Swiss artist, inventor
Bird simulator
In the Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, photo Carrie Fitzsimmons climbs aboard Birdly, a virtual reality flying machine, under the direction of Jonathan Talitat Le Laboratoire Cambridge in Cambridge, Mass
This last Wednesday an exhibition opened at Le Laboratoire, at Cambridge University, in its technology hub. And people in the Boston area were introduced to the inexpressible thrill of flying like a bird. People imagine they can fly, they dream about flying, and in their dreams they do fly, free as a bird, aloft and excited by what they can see below them, confident that they have mastered an arcane art and comfortable that they are secure in the process of experiencing flight.

Throughout history people have attempted flight. Of course the Wright Brothers succeeded in keeping a plane aloft and technology followed through from there, flight become an ordinary everyday occasion. But that was assisted flight, going aloft in a technologically advanced piece of machinery. What people really, truly would like for themselves is to experience being able to somehow lift themselves away from the magnetic influence that keeps them grounded, and not only levitate, but proceed through the air in any direction that appeals.

Kip Fenton experienced that sensation and was utterly thrilled. While he was in Massachusetts, he suddenly transitioned to flight over the New York City skyline, the skyscrapers rigid below him as he flew, his hair tousled and the sound of his body soaring through the air transfixing him with delight. And then he came down to Earth. In a manner of speaking. That descend was rapid; in fact immediate. He simply removed the goggles he was wearing, along with the headphones.

And there he was, lying on a contraption resembling an peculiar table with extended 'wings'. Before flight a person assembles themselves on top of the table face down, stretching arms on each side, palms flat against boards that tilt, to act as flight 'feathers'. Then come the headphones and the goggles; not just any eyepieces but virtual reality goggles. There is a forward tilt lifting legs further away from the ground and suddenly they're airborne!

A birds-eye view of Manhattan appears and the landscape is in motion. Kip Fenton rotated palms upward to climb and the machine tilted his body upward and onward. And when he reversed the motion for a dive, it obliged in that diection, too. Speeding is accomplished by flapping arms repeatedly while a fan rustles the hair and wind whirrs into the headphones. A long sweep of the horizon is accomplished with a head-turn.

People are lining up to experience virtual flight. The Birdly is just finishing up an exhibition tour of its tour-de-force flight device, more thrilling than viewing a film in an IMAX theatre. The company that manufactures Birdly, Somniacs, is planning to put their simulator on sale shortly. No price yet assigned to the flying-dream-machine.



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