We’ve seen some pretty crazy attempts at VR accessories over the last couple of years *cough* *cough* Nosulus Rift *cough* *cough.* So when a genuinely intuitive device comes along that could realistically bring a deeper level of immersion to users, it’s important to take note.
That’s exactly the case with ZephVR, a VR accessory that brings realistic wind affects to any VR experience and system. Whether you’re falling, flying, accelerating, ZephVR uses machine learning to instantly trigger real wind synchronized to the events happening in VR. The process is entirely automatic, which means once the device is installed it will take care of everything needed to work properly with any game or experience running on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR.
But how exactly does it instantly work with no setup involved? Must be black magic, right? Well not quite. The first-of-its-kind device uses machine learning to track and analyze in-game audio, activating its wind fans at just the right moment according to the sounds its processing.
“The ZephVR transforms any VR experience into a multi-sensory, physically immersive adventure,” said Sean Spielberg, the company’s cofounder and CEO. “Wind is one of the most critical elements in turning a game into a reality. Until now, experiences that incorporate wind have only been available at theme parks and exhibitions.”
“We think the ZephVR is a natural addition to virtual reality, just like the Rumble Pak was for the Nintendo 64,” said Spielberg. “But wind is just the beginning. Longer-term, our technology could enable all sorts of peripherals and physical effects—temperature, vibration, rain, or anything else people can think up—so that they work with all VR content, automatically.”
The idea initially came from co-founder and CTO Paige Pruitt while playing the PlayStation VR. According to Pruitt she was in the middle of playing a racing VR game when she leaned out the car window which inadvertently put her head in the direct path of her window fan. So as she leaned outside her virtual vehicle she accidentally felt the real wind of her fan and the idea was officially born. One prototype and a top post on the PSVR subreddit later, the ZephVR is now a real device with a real chance of changing the game.
The ZephVR crowdfunding campaign officially launches on Kickstarter today and will run until the end of the month with an end goal of $30,000. It doesn’t look like it’ll be difficult for the team to raise the funds with the campaign having already reached 90% of its funding in the first few hours. If you want to get in on some of this wind action, head over to their official Kickstarter page here.