A simple way to integrate physical feedback into a virtual experience is to use a fan to blow air at the user. This idea has been done before, and the fans are usually the easy part. [Paige Pruitt] and [Sean Spielberg] put a twist on things in their (now-canceled) Kickstarter campaign called ZephVR, which featured two small fans mounted onto a VR headset. The bulk of their work was in the software, which watches the audio signal for recognizable “wind” sounds, and uses those to turn on one or both fans in response.
The benefit of using software to trigger fans based on audio cues is that the whole system works independently of everything else, with no need for developers and software to build in support for your project, or to use other middleware. Unfortunately the downside is that the results are only as good as the ability of software to pick the right sounds and act on them. Embedded below is a short video showing a test in action.
On the left is a debug console, on which red indicates low or no wind and green is a lot of wind. Fans are mounted to the top of the monitor so the responses are visible. It’s not much of a demo, but it’s enough to see the idea in action with fans responding individually to objects passing nearby on the left or right.
[Sean] and [Paige] canceled their campaign despite hitting the funding goal, it seems they decided to change direction and focus on creating a robust software API instead of delving into hardware production. In the meantime, they shared the design files for their prototype hardware. Hopefully some software for people to experiment with will follow suit.
Augmenting virtual experiences with fans is nothing new, but interfacing to the application doesn’t always have to be a challenge. The Superfan project for example discovered that many racing and simulator games already have motion and feedback data that can be accessed and used by custom hardware — as long as one has the right software tools, anyway.
11 thoughts on “Putting Wind In VR By Watching The Audio Signal”
to do this for a single game you could hook into the process and grab the object’s velocity, or the wind audio volume, etc.
Detecting wind sound and somehow deducing airspeed doesn’t seem reliable approach, maybe all the VR API’s should by default include a way to store information about headset virtual velocity and temperature, g-forces etc, ..
Even if it’s not used now, games will already be compatible with future sets, and we can all have a blast trying all sorts of ludicrous enhancements already.
This has been done since 286SX PC bike simulators. There was a game I cant remember the name of, popular with many that got tricked out with exercise bikes as controllers and floor fans to simulate wind. This also only used the rectified smoothed audio output, but it was easy as wind sound was the majority of the audio in that game.
I’ve also played horror arcade shooters that uses, I think, compressed air. Kinda startling in addition to the already startling jump-scares and loud volume.
I like to know if any study has been done by the guys to see if it’s actually possible to distinguish between wind and other sounds in other people’s VR software enough to make this viable. Even with neural networks.
Seeing it’s a kickstarter I have my doubts they did.
For instance they often put ambient ‘droning’ sounds in, or the sound of fire (or light saber type things), or ‘plasma’ sounds in SciFi type stuff, which might be hard to tell apart without visual cues.
Oh. THAT kind of wind.
Heh, skatole in a modified inkjet cartridge, what could possible go wrong?
What game is that?
When I first saw the picture, I assumed this was some way to keep your sweaty face cool during marathon VR sessions, which seemed kinda gross.
Glad I was wrong.
Odd choice of word ‘gross’
But on the subject of the design, having it blow on my checks would both tickle and annoy me, I’d prefer a more distant fan, although with VR you’d need to also get the direction of the wind then really and have a number of fans to pick from and it would get rather complex.
The original Philips ambx device for PC with the colored lights had also attachment for fans BTW (and rumble, but that’s another thing) , which games could address to do the same. It didn’t get much uptake though and only few games even used the back of the monitor lights, let alone fans. And I hear the modern version of the back monitor lights also has an issue with support so although these things have a fanbase it constantly runs into support issues.
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