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emerging technologies

Virtual Hang-Gliding Over Rio de Janeiro

In this virtual tour, the user soars over Rio de Janeiro's famous cityscape and tourist sites, and experiences what a real hang-gliding flight feels like. The system delivers a stereoscopic experience, including stereo audio and wind sensations, and observers can watch the flight through an additional projection screen.

Art and Science

This project enhances life by providing a safe and fun environment in which people can experience truly immersive hang-gliding flights over different places or even synthetic places created by artists. It relieves fear by eliminating the risks of real hang-gliding. It provides a very enjoyable virtual experience. It can alleviate problems caused by diminished self-confidence. And it is a very good tool for training.


  • Enhance the hang-gliding simulation experience by adding more senses and improving quality.
  • Provide a true feeling of being "immersed" and experiencing a real hang-gliding flight with a (stereoscopic) head-mounted display, wind sensations, and 3D sound modified by head orientation and position in the 3D space.
  • Exploration of the city of Rio de Janeiro and its beautiful sights from a different perspective.


The simulation uses commodity-cluster technologies. Each computer node is responsible for a specific task.

All hardware components are commercially available. The software is an internally developed library called JINX. Many hang-gliding simulations were developed, but this version, because it uses a head-mounted display with head-tracking, creates more degrees of freedom and a greater feeling of immersion.

The model of Rio de Janeiro was produced for a tourism exhibition. It was created with Maya, saved in VRML, and then converted to X3D. An avatar of the glider was also created, because the user wears a head-mounted display and cannot see the real one.

The audio simulation plays "Aquele Abraço" in the background, and some points in the environment have special sounds (for example, the Maracanã, the biggest soccer stadium in the world, and the Sambódromo, the carnival parade avenue).

Head tracking allows users to rotate their heads so they can see and hear different scenes at any time. Jinx, a 3D browser designed to support simulations that use commodity-cluster technologies, was used to visualize the scenes. It supports stereoscopic graphics and 3D sound, in addition to other possible expansions.

The X3D system is based on a scene graph, and because of the architecture of C++, it is very simple to simulate each X3D node as an object. The X3D system has some non-linear links. An XML parser is required to parse an X3D file, as well as the configuration files for Jinx, which is also in XML format.


Visual, audio, and tactile technologies should be more integrated, so systems can deliver a deeper immersion experience. Perception of the virtual world tends to be more complete when at least three of the five senses are employed. It doesn't really matter how realistic the image, the sound, or even the touch are. The essential criterion is the overall sensation of immersion, the feeling that one really exists in an alternate reality. In other words, what really matters is the system's verisimilitude.


Luciano Pereira Soares
Universidade de São Paulo
lpsoares (at)


Marcio Calixto Cabral
Mario Nagamura
Leonardo Nomura
Roseli de Deus Lopes
Marcelo Knorich Zuffo
Universidade de São Paulo