When it comes to virtual reality, most “experiences” already have the graphics down. Sure, progress can always be made towards photorealism, but the real room for improvement is in the feeling of being in the virtual world. Visuals aren’t enough for total immersion, because your other senses always betray what your eyes are seeing. To get the complete experience, you need to trick your mind into feeling like your body is really there, which is exactly what this virtual reality hang glider does.
YouTuber Matthew Hallberg built this VR contraption with his friends, and the goal of simulating as much of the hang gliding experience as possible. That started with a virtual reality headset and a procedurally-generated open world running in Unity. With some patched together code for flying around the world, they quickly had a rudimentary hang glider flight sim. But, that was only one half of the puzzle, and they still had to make the player feel like they were actually soaring through the skies.
To accomplish that, the player sits in a hammock that does a good job of approximating how it probably feels to be strapped into a hang glider. The side-to-side tilt of the hammock’s cross bar is monitored with an accelerometer, and two buttons are used to lean the virtual hang glider forward or back. Those are connected to an ESP8266, which reports the control commands back to the VR app. Finally, a fan is blown on the player, and the fan’s speed corresponds to the hang glider’s air speed in the virtual world. When that’s all put together, the player really feels like they’re gliding along in an actual hang glider.