formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

December 27, 2016 Virtual Reality - and Good Luck!

The Liberty Gazette
December 27, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Mom sends the most interesting gifts. To our door last week came another box filled with thoughtful surprises for each of us: a book about the history of Icelandic sagas, to commemorate our recent trip there, and a small Coach pouch for me; a Virtual Reality (VR) head set for Mike. The tasty Kind bars, in fruit and chocolate flavors are for us to share.

Mom’s voice in dry wit comes through in the accompanying note card. “Mike, you can Google to find plenty of apps for your new toy. Linda, good luck with the book!” Fortunately, the sagas are in English. Mom’s choice is smarter than what I did when I bought books in Iceland as gifts for the grand kids. Mostly, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”, and the Berenstain Bears books, the one about going to school and the one about visiting the dentist (“...ULP - a yanker!”) were for my grown daughters. I doubt they can read the Icelandic versions of these, but seeing some of their old favorites in a different language, I thought, might be fun. My sister’s family didn’t escape my Icelandic book-buying frenzy; for them, a huge hardback about Vikings. Perhaps my note should have been like Mom’s note to me: “Good luck with the book!”

Whether she never checked and assumed the sagas were not in English, or whether she figured they would be too far outside my reading preference for non-fiction, I will try to find out after she recovers enough from a knee replacement to be her happy, chatty self again. Full knee replacements at nearly age 84 cause a lot of pain, but sending her pictures of Mike ‘wearing’ the gift she sent for him made her happy for a moment.

Mike: The VR visor is an advancement of the three-dimensional View-Master. Remember looking through the binocular-like viewer at pictures on cardboard disks, rotating the trigger lever on the side of the viewer? Instead of a picture disk I secure my smart phone in a compartment in the VR unit and strap the whole contraption around my head. I’ve cued up to a VR video on my phone, and as Mom said, there are apps for it, too, but I prefer videos for real world views over computer-generated app graphics.

For my introductory experience, my “discovery flight” of this VR visor, I select the 360-degree video taken during a real flight with the Blue Angels, available on YouTube. I ride along, we’re flying in the “slot” position, the back corner of the Angels’ signature diamond formation. From this full perspective I feel I could reach out and almost touch the other F/A-18 Hornets’ wingtips flying mere inches from each other and from me. Instinctively, I brace my body for the blood-draining G-forces as we dive earthward and execute breathtaking aerobatic maneuvers. I never feel the G’s; my mind plays tricks on me. We roll upside down, I tilt my head up, then look down into another Angel’s cockpit suspended in formation below me as the world scoots by beneath us.

Craning my neck, I scan my surroundings. I turn and take stock of the guy in the seat behind me, and forward again, looking down on the pilot’s bee-yellow helmet. My vantage point is as a fly suspended in the air between them. I am, magically, “in” the camera, with a 360-degree view.

Man, what a ride! Thanks, Mom!

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