It doesn’t matter who you are or which superhero is your favorite; everyone wants to fly. But until the human race evolves the ability to soar (don’t count on it), unassisted flight will forever be a fantasy. The next best thing is to trick your brain in believing you are flying. That’s exactly where virtual reality is headed.
In the special report above, I went to the oldest effects shop in Hollywood to check out “AirFlow,” a 4D experience from the small experience-based company MindRide. It’s four-dimensional, rather than three, because not only does AirFlow utilize virtual reality tech to simulate human flight (via an Oculus Rift headset and headphones), it also incorporates lights, harnesses, and variable-speed fans to trick your senses into believing you have actually taken flight.
AirFlow makes you feel like Iron Man (you throw your arms back to go faster and forward to stop) like how different senses combine to make the sensation of taste. Taste isn’t just what your taste buds pick up — a food’s taste is a combination of sight, smell, taste buds, and touch. Modulating any one of these senses can alter how something tastes. Don’t believe me? Think about how a green French fry, the same in every way except for its color, would taste.
By hanging you horizontally while changing lights and fans and sounds in a virtual environment, AirFlow combines many different senses in order to better simulate the sensation of flight. And what a sensation it is. Though astounding, I was queasy after the first ride. It’s reverse sea sickness — you are hanging horizontally so that your inner ear isn’t registering a change, but your eyes see a constantly shifting horizon as you “fly”.
Although it might shift your stomach a bit, AirFlow is unlike any virtual reality experience I have ever tried, and has to, or should, be the direction that immersive efforts are headed. MindRide is hoping to have a commercially-available rig in 2016, so maybe at the next museum or fair you attend you can fly too.
What sort of experiences do you want from virtual reality? Share them with us in the comments below.