Birdly, a new full-body virtual reality experience that gives the sensation of flying, will be at Pittsburgh International Airport for ticketed passengers to try at no cost from May 22-25 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Birdly opened in April as a permanent exhibit at the National Aviary with Pittsburgh International Airport as the exhibit’s presenting sponsor. "We are happy to partner with the National Aviary for this high-tech exhibit as we work to bring more of Pittsburgh’s cultural scene into the terminal," said Paul O’Rourke, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Allegheny County Airport Authority. "With Birdly, and the launch of several new nonstop routes on ultra-low cost carriers, now anyone can fly."
Birdly will be at the airport for the launch of Spirit Airlines’ service to Myrtle Beach on May 25. Pittsburgh International is only the ninth airport in the country to have all three ultra-low cost carriers, including Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit, and offers a wide-range of nonstop options on legacy carriers to the ultra-low cost. The options accommodate all types of budgets. The exhibit will travel to both Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County airports several more times this year.
The partnership will enhance the Authority’s sense of place initiative for visitors by connecting the airport with the region it serves and partnering with important institutions, such as the National Aviary. Hailed by CNET as “hands-down the best VR experience yet,’’ and newly launched in North America, just two Birdly exhibits have landed – at the National Aviary and The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.
"The experience is very unique and highly realistic," said National Aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy. "The ability to fly is one of the characteristics that sets birds apart, and most of us have at one time in our life have wished we could experience what it would be like to fly freely through the air. The Birdly experience is a perfect fit with our mission as we engage visitors through experiences that inspire in them a connection to birds and to the natural world."
Birdly riders lie on the simulator chest down. Riders flap their arms using hinged wings, controlling direction and speed of their travel. A fan simulates headwinds and flying speed. Motors and actuators tilt and dip the flyer’s body in response. An HTC Vive headset provides visuals and head-tracking, taking flyers over a virtual New York City. The sensory-motor coupling essentially tricks the brain. Between the motion, wind, sound and visuals, riders are effectively flying – vertigo and all.
A large monitor allows spectators to witness what the rider is experiencing – and spectators tend to have just as much fun. Along with the chance to experience flight, visitors at the National Aviary or Pittsburgh International Airport will also learn about the science of flight. How and why do birds fly? And how do airplane flight physics compare? Visitors also learn about challenges faced by birds, and some of the creative solutions to protect birds, and ourselves, as we share the same habitats.
Birdly was invented by Swiss startup SOMNIACS. An early prototype debuted in 2015. The National Aviary’s Birdly is an enhanced version, recently introduced in Asia and Europe. D3D Cinema of Chicago is offering Birdly for sale and rent to museums, amusement parks, entertainment centers, and events producers. At the National Aviary, the experience will be offered daily in timed increments. The cost is $8 per flight. For more information visit https://www.aviary.org/fly.
About Allegheny County Airport Authority:
Allegheny County Airport Authority, which manages Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport, is committed to increasing air service, improving customer service and inspiring growth in the Pittsburgh region. Its 2016 Annual Report detailing growth and improved financial position can be found at flypittsburgh.com/AR16.
Built by Swiss start-up SOMNIACS, an early prototype of Birdly debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. SOMNIACS took the system on the road from SXSW to Computex, where it was met with long lines and created significant buzz. The enhanced Birdly was introduced recently in Asia and Europe and jhand been launched in North America by D3D Cinema, a Chicago company specializing in immersive experiences, from content production to giant screen and dome cinema design.