Alexander on 2/23/2017

Sneak Preview: Demodern lets you fly with birdly in VR

For the last few weeks, our favorite device in the Hamburg office has been the Birdly – a flight simulator developed by the Swiss company SOMNIACS.  Birdly is more than just a machine steered by a user. By approaching the dream of flying, Birdly allows users to intuitively take on the role of a bird, to glide through the air with their arms extended and accelerate by flapping their virtual wings.

Birdly Ulm

A city that's long gone

Until now, a user could, using Birdly, fly above the virtually mapped skyline of Manhattan. Demodern's efforts, however, will take the VR experience to 19th century Ulm, Germany. To anyone who thinks Ulm won't stand a chance against New York, here are the details:

The year is 1890 and the famous Ulmer Minster is nearly completed. The main focus is on the amazing craftsmanship of the time. Initial idea, concept and creative direction come from the Interactive Media Foundation, Berlin. As our 3D department rebuilds these complex geometries, we conclude that craftsmanship like this is still a challenge.

Minster Model Texture

City planning by Demodern

The main characteristics of Ulm’s historic city, which was largely destroyed during Wold War 2, are its Gothic architecture and wooden crossbeams. We breath life into these buildings, especially in VR.

In order for our implementation to be as detailed as possible, we did extensive research at the Ulmer city archive and saw firsthand the defining buildings of Ulm, including the 768 steps of the Ulmer Minster.

Birdly Ulm Excursion

3D-quality standards vs. engine optimization

Once the research was successfully completed, 3D development started. The Minster and other prominent buildings, as well as regular houses, were designed, modeled and textured. The characteristically historic architecture can be found in each and every facade. Even basic buildings use additional geometry for beams, windows, or clotheslines creating a realistic and intimate experience. 

All elements are being placed in Unity by hand and have to perform in slow, low altitude flight.
That's our next challenge: framerate optimization. But more of that in our next blog post.

Starting July 2017, visitors can experience the "dream of flight" in Ulm. Demodern was tasked by Interactive Media Foundation to create this VR experience and is responsible for its user experience design, 3D design and technical implementation.

Birdly Ground Flight