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National Aviary’s New VR Attraction Lets Visitors Soar Through The Sky Like A Bird

Kassia Janesch
National Aviary
90.5 WESA's Deanna Garcia tests out Birdly, the National Aviary's new virtual reality experience.

Ever wonder what it’s like to experience flying the way a bird does?

It’s possible – sort of – with the National Aviary’s new virtual reality exhibit. It lets visitors get a feel for what it would be like to flap their wings through the sky.

While lying on a moveable platform, the user stretches out their arms across a mechanical wingspan, which they can flap during virtual flight. After an Aviary employee secures the headset and headphones, you’re off and soaring over New York City. 

The new attraction, Birdly, is meant to add to the aviary’s mission of helping people gain respect for nature through the experience of birds in the wild, according to Education Director Trisha O'Neill. 

“And also gain an appreciation for what birds do as they migrate and fly around – the obstacles, the challenges and just the sheer freedom of being able to move from place to place in this way,” she said.

O'Neill said the simulator will help visitors learn about the science and dynamics of flight. Right now, visitors can fly through New York and if they hit certain billboards, there are mini-experiences: one featuring King Kong, one in the Alps and another flying over the ocean among the clouds. 

Pittsburgh International Airport is a sponsor of Birdly and in May, the exhibit will travel to the airport for a period of time, but will otherwise remain a permanent fixture at the Aviary, O'Neill said.

Birdly was invented by Swiss startup SOMNIACS. It's one of two in the U.S. The second one is in San Jose, Calif.

The exhibit is now open to the public and costs an additional $8.