“Superfan” Gaming Peripheral Lets You Feel Your Speed

Virtual reality has come a long way but some senses are still neglected. Until Smell-O-Vision happens, the next step might be feeling the wind in your hair. Perhaps dad racing a sportbike or kids giggling on a rollercoaster. Not as hard to build as you might think, you probably have the parts already.

HAD - Superfan4Off-the-shelf devices serve up the seeing and hearing part of your imaginary environment, but they stop there. [Jared] wanted to take the immersion farther by being able to feel the speed, which meant building his own high power wind generator and tying it into the VR system. The failed crowdfunding effort of the “Petal” meant that something new would have to be constructed. Obviously, to move air without actually going on a rollercoaster requires a motor controller and some fans. Powerful fans.

A proponent of going big or going home, [Jared] picked up a pair of fans and modified them so heavily that they will launch themselves off of the table if not anchored down. Who overdrives fans so hard they need custom heatsinks for the motors? He does. He admits he went overboard and sensibly way overbudget for most people but he built it for himself and does not care.


HAD - Superfan3Nice guy that he is, [Jared] priced and spec’d out both the system he built and the system most of you would want to build instead – Arduino, PC fan, PC power supply and other junk from your partsbins. His personal selection was a T-Rex robot controller, BlueSMiRF bluetooth and twin O2Cool fans – $163 right there and nearly $500 by the time he was done. If you want to imitate his build exactly, [Jared] took photos and detailed each and every step of the process.

If you are like us, your first thought was “That’s nice, but it’s useless unless the games are built for it.” Turns out, with a plugin suite they already are. The software is the second hack of this build and it was already written.

[Jared] was surprised too, but the 3d party software he found is called “SimTools” and it works as advertised for speed and many other in-game variables. They claim 95% of new racing and flight titles are supported by SimTools, nearly a hundred are listed so far. Some titles you might recognize: Dirt, 8 years worth of Need For Speed, Microsoft Flight Sim X, Elite:Dangerous, and No Limits Rollercoaster. Sadly, the wonky payment system encourages forum spam to “earn” coins or a per-game annual fee is required. Weird or not, it does offer both cash and contribution options, so, it is hard to fault the developer too much.

The project log serves just as much of a tutorial and lacks nothing for a novice. Everything a beginner would need to make their own wind generator is covered in his extensive walk-through.

Check out the videos below to see a very happy little girl on her imaginary rollercoaster and a now-with-wind demo of the racing game Assetto Corsa.

15 thoughts on ““Superfan” Gaming Peripheral Lets You Feel Your Speed

  1. Just FYI – The number of puns I had to dodge while writing this…

    Biggest fan! Fan-tasy. Fan-tastic. Cool. Blow. Blown away. Probably could have chained a whole article out of them.

  2. R/C aircraft motors, propellers, and drives would work nicely for this. As do variable speed computer fans, except most will not vary smoothly to zero speed.
    “Even back in the 90’s when I was playing Descent 2 on my Virtual IO I-Glasses I couldn’t help but wish I could feel the heat coming off the lava.”
    Just add an infrared heat lamp driven off a digitally controlled dimmer. Then you need to do some programming but luckily, the modern version of Descent (D2X-XL) is open source.

    1. Searched for ” IR ” in the comments and with no hits I posted, only to notice that you used “infrared” and beat me to the punch line. Great minds think alike and fools …

    2. I actually looked at R/C aircraft motors. The problem with the really “beefy” ones is that they have HUGE current draw needs. They’re used to being run from 4S or even 6S LIPOs. A 5000mah LIPO at 30C can produce upwards of 150 amps! A 120v to 12v power supply that can deliver that kind of amperage is .. well .. not cheap. It would be possible to actually drive the motors from LIPO batteries, but then you’d have to always be trickle charging them and keeping them at a relatively high charge, which isn’t good for LIPOs. Plus, I don’t know of a micro controller or shield that can handle that sort of amperage. If one exists, it can’t be cheap. You’d probably end up interfacing with an ESC (enhanced speed controller) to do it.

      It certainly can be done, it was just a lot more effort than I wanted to get into. The setup I built can theoretically move up to 96 cubic feet of air at almost 20 miles per hour using less than 36 amps. That’s good enough for me! :)

  3. Hey guys, this is Jared Bienz, the guy who built SuperFan. Thanks to HackADay for featuring the project, it was a lot of fun to build. I love some of the ideas here with the heat lamps and I’ll probably go there next! Oh, and thanks for mentioning D2X-XL Mike. I wasn’t aware of that project or that it was open source so I’ll definitely be taking a look at that.

    Lastly, I wanted to mention that I’ve been in touch with the creator of SimTools himself. He’s a really good guy and it sounds like he’s not making much money from SimTools at all. He doesn’t quite “charge per game” as mentioned in the article, or at least not the way people will probably take that. Every download (whether its SimTools itself or a game plugin) costs 10 coins. You can earn those coins by purchasing them or through forum activity. The two points I was trying to make in my write up were that it’s a bit frustrating to have to do one or the other when you first get started to even be able to download the tools, and I’d rather pay a (modest) fee up front and not have to worry about coins or forum participation going forward. But I understand why he did it that way and I think it’s an interesting way to motivate forum participation. Luckily I don’t see anyone attempting to game the system by filling the forum with spam just to get coins. Hopefully people continue to be respectful and that doesn’t happen. Now that I’ve spent some time on the forum myself I’ve found it’s really not that hard to rack up some coins with pretty modest participation.

    Anyway, thanks for all the comments and have fun!

      1. In the literal sense that it costs 10 coins per download without a subscription, absolutely. But if you’ve bought a subscription then you’re not paying per download. Also, if you’ve been moderately participating in the forums there’s a good chance you’ll have enough coins to not pay anything at all. I think the biggest problem with this payment / contribution model is that it’s just confusing. It’s confusing because it’s different than what people are used to.

  4. Philips had an ambilight system for PC that included optional vibration motors but also fans to emulate wind in games. The thing was discontinued though but the basic setup had the lights and connectors for the addons and those were simple to interface by hackers and you could make your own fans and vibration system, or use the data to power your own inventions.

    It’s a pity it died though since after that no games put support in anymore so you have nothing to hack onto.even if you find an old unit.

  5. I remember playing an arcade game named Prop Cycle. In the game, you pedal a glide-bicycle. The best thing is that the wind will blow harder if the character is going faster. It was a very pleasant experience. I wish something like this can be combined with Wii Fit to give a wind simulation.

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