Petal fan

A new accessory which fans gamers as they wander through virtual worlds may soon be headed for the consumer virtual reality (VR) market with the help of crowdfunding.

Petal Fan is a small, portable fan which responds dynamically to virtual, in-game effects so as to simulate the feeling of airflow one would expect in the real world. A light breeze, sudden gale or air across your face as you run along a mountaintop could all be approximated by the fan, which offers “directional air control” and can plug into one of your PC’s USB ports.

Andrew London, who launched the project, told that he had the idea for a VR fan while playing iRacing on his Oculus Rift.

“I had a USB dumb fan sitting on my desk and I noticed then that the wind felt like it was coming from the game because I happened to have it on at the same time,” he said. “That’s how it started, it was just a happy accident.”

London, who lives in Kansas and has a day job in government IT, added that he and his team have tested 3D-printed parts as well as propellers designed for radio controlled aircraft. Experiments in linking the prototype fan to game worlds have so far been carried out via Unity, a popular video game engine and development tool.

The Petal Fan team hopes to raise $35,000 (£20,000) on Kickstarter in order to produce development kits and get the fans into production. Key objectives for now include reducing the noise made by the prototypes and testing the impact of using multiple fans. London explains that five could eventually be used together for a surround-wind effect.

“We’re really excited about showing people how cool this thing can be, pun not intended,” he joked.

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