Taking to the skies with the new How to Train Your Dragon VR experience at iFLY (Image courtesy of iFLY)
The first time I tried VR was in 2016, when the latest generation hit living rooms. I was impressed by the possibilities but not overly moved by the underwater attack in Shark Encounter for the Playstation. It was a neat jaunt to the ocean floor, but it was also apparent developers had a lots to do before delivering a truly immersive experience.
So when iFly, the indoor skydiving company based here in Austin, invited the Chronicle to feature its new virtual reality set-up, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see how far the technology has come in the last few years. iFly’s How to Train Your Dragon VR experience did not disappoint.
I’d never been to iFly before, so my instructor started me slowly with a couple of training rounds. The first seconds after you belly flop into the wind tunnel is supposed to feel exactly like jumping out of a plane in a real skydive. The wind rendered my body completely weightless – a feeling unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
With the training rounds completed, I was equipped with a VR helmet for the main event. iFly teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to bring flyers a special drop to celebrate the February release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. You pick between two dragonriding characters, Hiccup or Astrid, and then enter a race.
Even knowing intellectually that I was in the same wind tunnel as before, my twists, turns, and drops made me feel like I was actually Astrid soaring through the mountainous terrain. Suspended in midair with my arms spread, I whooped and hollered as I took in the greenery around me.
While iFly’s dragon experience might not be for every adult (I’m truly a kid at heart), there’s good news for those looking for a slightly less Dreamworks experience, with packages of 'real-life' jumps from Hawaii to the Alps.
How To Train Your Dragon VR at iFly Austin, 13265 US-183 A. Booking and info at iflyworld.com.