This is a fantastic example of how VR can help everybody learn about specific fields – including the field of Archeology. The Pterosaurs first appeared more than 220 million years ago and lived alongside dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era. Being able to go back in time can give us a multi-dimensional view of life before humans. VR Time Machine.
April 2, 2016
Written by: Eric Larson
Fly Like a Giant Prehistoric Lizard – VR Time Machine
Don’t let the silent “p” fool you: Pterosaurs are not dinosaurs.They’re not quite birds or bats, either. If anything, they’re more like a unique breed of flying reptiles, ranging in width from the size of a sparrow to that of a two-seater airplane.
They’re also dead. Have been for almost 66 million years. But in their prime, scientists say, they were rulers of the sky.In honor of the late winged kings, the American Museum of Natural History in New York had an exhibit, “Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of the Dinosaurs,” that showcased all-new research, fossils and life-size models of the mysterious species.The coolest part: Visitors can step into motion sensor-based platforms and pilot two different species of pterosaurs through virtual landscapes.
“And their heads were just massive,” says Michael Habib, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell and neurobiology at the University of Southern California and co-researcher for the exhibit, which features fossils from Italy, Germany, China and Brazil. “We like to joke that they were basically flying heads.”
Big-headed, flying crocodile hybrids with wings as wide as fighter jets. (Sleep well tonight, kids!)
The highlight of it all, though, is the flight simulators. Using an Xbox Kinect, visitors can step up in front of a screen and flap their arms; on screen a giant, virtual pterosaur corresponds to their every move. There are two games: one where you try to catch bugs in a dense forest, and another where you try to snag fish from the sea.
The entire program was designed using Unity. Habib, also an expert in flight mechanics, provided the algorithms — or “math magic,” he jokes — to translate the user’s motions as accurately as possible to the virtual bird.
“The speed of how fast you flap your arms will determine how fast the bird climbs,” he says. “Given everything we’ve studied, we believe it’s very similar to what worked for the pterosaur.”
But there’s one obvious question: If pterosaurs really were “kings of the sky,” as they’re being pegged, why did they go extinct 66 million years ago?
Alexander Kellner, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Universidade Federal in Rio de Janerio and co-researcher for the exhibit, throws his hands in the air and smiles: “We don’t know! But hopefully we’ll find out soon. For now, everyone can enjoy the discoveries we’ve made so far.”
Video by Kenny Suleimanagich