... to soar like an eagle?
Aquila Bird Flight Simulator lets you experience soaring bird flight using the Oculus Rift headset. You embody one of three species of eagle flying over either Northwest Scotland, a part of Columbia, or Graham Island in British Columbia. This is designed as a soaring simulation, and as such you can make use of ridge lift and thermals.
Aquila is currently in development on the PC platform using the Unity Engine. There is an Early Access version on the Oculus Rift store, and I anticipate an OpenVR version on Steam soon, once conversion is complete. A Mac version is also a possibility.
Aquila began as an dream more years ago than I care to think about, and I never thought that technology would progress to bring it in to reach of amature programmers such as me. With the discovery of the Unity engine, and the Oculus Rift VR headset, I realised that I could begin to give the dream wings.
Using the Unity and C#, much time, tutorials, experimenting and tinkering, Aquila began to take form. Using a customised flight engine, a day/night system, terrain analysis, and lots of sleepless nights, the possibilities of Aquila became apparent and the simulator was advanced enough to demonstrate. It has been demonstrated at the Hawk Conservancy Trust Wings event 2016, The National Centre for Birds of Prey Helmsley, and finally as part of the IET stand at Fairford Royal International Air Tattoo 2016. The long term aim is to pair this simulation with the amazing Somniacs Birdly platform SDK, or whatever platform proves the most flexible, in order to facilitate fund raising for bird of prey conservation. It is also capable of control with the head only, to enable differently abled individuals to experience flying like a bird in a safe environment. Finally Oculus Touch motion controllers are supported, so you can fly using your arms as wings. The complete set-up will be available for hire for your own event, with everything above expenses going towards raptor conservation.
Why have one, when you can have two? For coorporate or team-building events, two set-ups will allow multiplayer for trials!
- You can fly the white-tailed sea eagle, a harpy eagle, or a bald eagle over a corner of North West Scotland near Polla (13 x 13 km at 1m per pixel), or a mountainous corner of Columbia, or finally a part of Graham Island in British Columbia, Canada. The demo includes the Scotland terrain only.
- There are a variety of control options. It is pre-configured to work with an XBox360 Controller, although you can configure control axis on the splash screen. You can also steer with the Oculus headset, use your arms as wings with Oculus Touch, or if all else fails you can use the keyboard. The Oculus remote also works to navigate the menu. See the Download page for the demo notes. There is a comfort mode added, to reduce movement in VR and make it more comfortable to those new to VR.
- Soar using ridge lift and thermals, with configurable wind direction and speed. In thermals, red/yellow/green markers trailed behind you while circling indicate where the good rising air is.
- Selectable wind direction and speed on the title screen. Wind direction is indicated by dandelion seeds that float with the air...
- Ground work complete for soaring courses and start/goal challenges. Only one of each at present for SW'ly wind (230 degrees).
- You can take off and land, and walk around on the ground if you're that way inclined.
- Supports the Oculus Rift VR headset with an eagles point of view. It is presently required to look around, but the simulator will run without it. No HTC Vive support simply because I do not have one. I am investigating the use of OpenVR to use other headsets.
- Yes you can crash! If you hit the ground and the game resets to the title, you definitely crashed.
- There is an observer mode selectable on the in-game menu, so your main pc screen gives you a spectators view while you play in VR. The videos below show a variety of things you can find in the demo, including the observer function.
- Wing flapping for the white tailed sea eagle is calculated using trig (sine/cosine curves, etc). It doesn't look bad, but it's not authentic! The other two eagles use traditional animations, but takes no account of your control input except head movements and flapping.
- When you land, you must be landing roughly in to wind with little ground speed on touch down to switch to walking mode. It seems mostly robust, unless you land with the wind completely up your tail!
- If you fly too fast, you begin to pitch down. It is controllable, if undesirable, but I'm still working on that.
- If you try a loop and get slow, you will waste lots of height. That may not be a bug! Anyway whoever saw an eagle loop?
- Unity personal edition 5.6.0b3, with Oculus SDK 1.10.
- World Composer, and Terrain Composer.
- Aircraft Flight Physics Toolkit. Awesome piece of kit.
- UniStorm for the day/night cycle.
- the eagle model is under Birds_Eagle_Anim on the asset store. Very flexible and tweakable model.
- 3D Animated Clouds by MPixels. Brilliant.
- more landscapes and birds.
- challenges, both soaring courses and goals, along with Trophy's and achievements.
- possible survival simulation? Food, threats, other birds, etc.
- dynamic weather.
- special needs access (head steering is the start of this).
- motion platform support (would anyone care to donate a Birdly platform? :) ).
These videos show the simulator in action. The first one is like the current demo, and contains all the same features. The second one is an example flight using ridge and thermal lift with a full day cycle from an observer view on a second pc that has joined the game. After that, we have another showing the beginning of the day, from purely a first-person view.
The last two show the harpy eagle flying in the Columbia landscape, and finally the bald eagle flying in the British Columbia landscape.