Does digital projection have a place at iFly?
- 02 July, 2014 15:47
Digital projection remains a relatively distant possibility on the roadmap of indoor skydiving, according to Indoor Skydive Australia.
Australia’s first indoor skydiving facility, iFly Downunder, was opened by Indoor Skydive Australia in April in Sydney.
The facility allows people to experience the feeling of flying within a closed space where air is continuously pumped up at various speeds.
Skydive Australia chief operating officer, Danny Hogan, said there had been some consideration of projecting images of the earth in the facility's basement.
However, he said an important aspect of the iFly experience for attendees was the photography and video capture.
“The basement needs to be quite well lit for that, so projecting any video downwards would be somewhat missed,” Hogan said.
For aerodynamic efficiency, a skydiver also needs to position their head up so the gaze is level with the horizon.
“Since the head needs to be up while flying, participants really don’t get the opportunity to look down that often,” Hogan said.
Companies such as Google have already been experimenting with a digital skydiving experience using technologies such as Google Earth.
During Google’s Demo Slam event in 2010, users were suspended from the ceiling while an overhead projector displayed Google Earth on the floor.
The concept was taken in a different direction during last year’s Google I/O event, where the floor projection was replaced with seven flat screen monitors orientation in portrait mode.
Instead of behind suspended in the air to simulate the virtual skydive, the user stands upright and navigates an on-screen avatar using motion controls.
Fly like a kite
The first iFly installation open in 1997 in Orlando, Florida, and since then SkyVenture has been the supplier of vertical wind tunnels for iFly globally.
Off the back of the long-standing relationship with SkyVenture, the Australian facility uses wind tunnel technology from Mitsubishi Electric.
Hogan said about $1 million is invested into the R&D of each new iFly facility.
“The technology we have in iFly Downunder is already state-of-the-art and finely tuned, so there’s not much more leeway for any further advancement,” he said.
As for how iFly hopes to augment the skydiving experience in the future, live video feeds from various wind tunnels around the world are being considered.
The intention is to let skydivers view each of the tunnels and hold skydiving competitions at the same time yet located thousands of kilometres apart.
Hogan said there is still a bit of R&D to do before it is finalised, but it is on iFly’s agenda and the company is investigating it.
“The focus now is the operations and the customer experience, and the digital enhancement comes at a later priority,” he said.
Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.