SIGGRAPH 2014 bird flight simulator Birdly has Vancouver conference goers soaring above San Francisco

"A-ma-zing," said Adrian Gasinski, who strapped into the virtual bird. "Fly between the buildings, go over the buildings, do the tight turns, and actually feel the wind in your hair and in your ears."

Annual computer visualization and interactive conference in Vancouver for 2nd time

Emerging virtual reality technology is one of the hot draws at the annual conference, which is in B.C. for the second time 2:14

Adrian Gasinski got a first-person hands-on experience to remember at one of the booths featuring emerging virtual reality technology at SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver.

"A-ma-zing," he told CBC News. "Fly between the buildings, go over the buildings, do the tight turns, and actually feel the wind in your hair and in your ears."

Birdly, a bird flight simulator ride, took him on a virtual aerial tour above and through the skyline of San Francisco, where he happens to live.

"It's wow. I haven't had so much fun on anything else. Even flying in an actual plane is nowhere as much fun."

Max Rheiner, a professor from Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland, is one of a team of four who created Birdly.

He said people strapped into the bird flight simulator embody a bird, rather than feeling as though they are controlling a machine as with most virtual reality devices.

"Usually you just use your hands or the keyboard with the hands, but we are interested in [having the] full body get into this simulation and you can navigate with all your senses and feel with all your senses," he said.

The simulator is just one example of the merging of disciplines that has brought together a range of academic and industry groups at SIGGRAPH since 1974.

"SIGGRAPH attracts two different crowds; a scientific-technological crowd and also a more artistic crowd," says Thierry Frey, one of the 2014 conference's committee members.

SIGGRAPH, which stands for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques, had 16,000 attendees when it first came to Vancouver in 2011.

This year, organizers say there are 150 companies taking up 40,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and they hope for an even bigger turnout this year. 

The conference and exhibition runs through Thursday.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Harrington


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