The Tobias Project
In the Animorphs book series, one of the main characters (Tobias) gets stuck in the body of a hawk. Because of this (and the fact that one of the main travel morphs for the others were birds of prey) much of the series is seen through the eyes of a bird.
The series stirred a desire in many to be able to soar on thermals as Tobias and the other Animorphs did - recreating that experience is the heart of this project.
Optimizing for POV
In the Real World
- Flying eagle point of view #1
- Eagle-cam reveals incredible POV as it descends from Burj Khalifa - BBC News
- Parrot's New Drone Lets You Simulate Flying, Feet on the Ground
- This drone diving a skyscraper
- Next level racing
In a Virtual World
- Birdly: An attempt to fly New Website
- Someone is currently developing a video game where you are a cat exploring Kowloon Walled City
- San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam
Optimizing for Flight Experience
- First Person View goggles, specific ones chosen from this thread
- Parrot AR Drone, chosen because it's dirt cheap (~$40 on ebay), has a bunch of open source scripts we can use, and has a built-in camera (so no modding needed). Perfect entry-level MVP for this project.
- Open Source Control System, chosen because it's easily mod-able. Because it renders on a laptop, it easily feeds (via an hdmi port) the FPV goggles. Additionally, it can take as input keystrokes - so our wing implementation merely needs to act like a keyboard as the point of integration.
- Wing Logic - we tested the Birdly product, and found their system to be a good basis for how to make the wings work with a few modifications. Flapping your wings makes you feel like a chicken and ruins the immersion - additionally, as Tobias notes in Animorphs, some birds rarely flap and ride thermals for lift. We'll go with that approach: diving (both wings pointed down), banking left or right (one wing pointed down), or just soaring up on a thermal (both wings pointed up).
- Wing Input - Using the accelerometers in this bike turn signal indicator glove. As a bonus, this same chip can act like a keyboard, sending commands to our drone control system mentioned earlier.
- Increase range to 1 mile instead of a couple hundred feet (by use of more expensive drone with a ground station). Could also look into a custom build using a 36dBm a/b/g/n/ac directional MIMO quad Wi-Fi antenna to continue using Parrot AR Drone 2.0? Video guide with some details on that approach
- Support turning of head to view direction different from direction you are flying. To do so, add accelerometer / gyroscope to top of POV, potentially using same chip as for wing input. Additionally, need to use a drone that supports wider camera view. Could possibly solve via complex code, turning drone and compensating for turn to continue in same direction - would rather use a wide angle camera, though, as drone flight is already tricky in windy area I live, don't want to add variables there.
The best option is to re-use our existing drone setup from Iteration 1, but jam in a Wi-Fi antenna to a usb port on our laptop which is running the drone control software.
This video shows a way to do it with a $8 usb stick that extends the range from ~200 feet all the way up to ~700 feet.
Parrot utilizes a 36dBm a/b/g/n/ac directional MIMO quad Wi-Fi antenna in their Skycontroller dock to achieve the 1.2 mile distance.
Could likely go in the middle, don't need 1.2 mile distance, should optimize for an omnidirectional antenna at cheapest reasonable price, perhaps max of $100. To prove concept, could use cheap $8 stick from video above first.
Other options are to use a more expensive drone setup:
- [Expensive New Drone] Parrot Bebop 2 utilizes a 36dBm a/b/g/n/ac directional MIMO quad Wi-Fi antenna in a Skycontroller accessory dock for mobile devices to boost the range to 1.2 miles. Cost around $600. Also supports Digital panning (for head turning). Issue is wing inputs, this drone is primarily driven via phone app + skycontroller joysticks.
- [Expensive New Drone] Yuneec Typhoon H - 360 degree view, perfect for turning a head while continuing to fly in one direction for best POV experience. Far distance with ground doc. Issue is again wing inputs.
Head Turning Solution
Add accelerometer / gyroscope to top of POV, potentially using same chip as for wing input. Additionally, need to use a drone that supports wider camera view. Could possibly solve via complex code, turning drone and compensating for turn to continue in same direction - would rather use a wide angle camera, though, as drone flight is already tricky in windy area I live, don't want to add variables there.
So using one of the more expensive drone solutions mentioned above is an option that have this support built in. Also could just remove this requirement - to be honest, while it did help with immersion in my Birdly experience, I only did it once or twice and forgot to the rest of my time flying. Can probably live without it.