Dreams of flight are among the most euphoric of human experiences. But no matter how vividly you dream, once you wake up, the memory recedes. Now, we can finally experience realistic flight while fully conscious, thanks to the rapidly improving virtual reality device Oculus Rift and a program called Birdly by Swiss artist Max RheinerWired explains:

To simulate the effortlessness of dream flight, Rheiner made the interface more metaphorical and intuitive. By twisting your arm you control the pitch of the wing: Tip up to soar higher, and tip down to dive. Catch the air with one hand to bank. To climb faster, you can vigorously pump both wings. Pistons provide realistic resistance, and a fan is calibrated to make the windspeed match your virtual velocity.

Using aerial shots of San Francisco and a specialized reclining chair-like contraption, Birdly allows you to cruise over the terrain at will. There are many potential uses for this software, which is still in early stages of development.

An interface like Birdly’s could some day be used to fly a real drone in realtime, says Rheiner. You could fly wherever you want and see what’s happening there right now, no mapping necessary. You could take a trip to check out the forest fires raging in Northern California, or circle a friend’s outdoor BBQ like a (creepy) vulture.

The Birdly prototype will be at Swissnex and the Exploratorium in San Francisco through next week, and in Vancouver at the SIGGRAPH Conference from August 10th to the 14th. (Photo: Joshua Batson, Wired)