As we approach the point where companies involved in virtual reality start to solve the first wave of hard problems associated with virtual reality and more people immerse themselves in VR, it’s clear that for many, merely seeing their virtual world isn’t going to be enough. They want to feel it too.

big-petal-protoWhilst we’re potentially years away from convincing haptics for the entire body, an enterprising group of developers have come up with a solution to a problem you may not have realised existed. A virtual reality fan, and it started its Kickstarter campaign recently.

Petal is (as far as we know) the world’s first commercial VR fan peripheral. The idea is that, once integrated with a game, output data from the program is fed to the Petal fan and it interprets data into airflow directed at the player. Imagine swooping through Metropolis as Superman, wearing your Oculus Rift and favourite set of headphones with a convincing breeze from Petal filling in the sensory gaps.

It’s an intriguing idea and the team at Petal have put some real thought into their implementation. The fan (currently at the proof of concept stage) will offer a powerful, responsive fan which can react to changes in gameplay. Also, if one fan isn’t enough, you can daisy chain multiple fans together for more airflow to cover a wider/taller field.

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The team are working on Unreal Engine 4 and Unity integration right now and plan to release their SDK as open source to the community should the project get off the ground.

Pledge tiers at which you receive a Petal fan range from the current Early Bird tier, $50 for the developer kit to a ‘Meet the team’ option at $2,999.

We have no idea how effective Petal is or could be, but we like the concept very much. If it interests you, head over to their Kickstarter campaign page here and grab yourself a kit. Or, visit their web page.

We’ll let you know how the campaign fairs. In the mean time, what do you think of the idea?

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  • steinhk

    Kinda cool project, but it has a few very obvious flaws.
    -Why would you make a “development kit” of something like this? This isn’t exactly rocket science, or Rift-like engineering. It’s a very simple construction. If these guys know what they’re doing, they have a working prototype and know what a final design should be like. They should offer a final product instead.
    -That “thrust vector” work the same way as the ventilation in your car. You could point it at your face (where you’ll feel it), or away from your face (and not feel it). Variation in the airflow angle seems pointless. Unless you hook up several of these, you won’t get a sense of the direction airflow is coming from. You have to pay $120 and upwards to get two or more of these – that sounds very expensive. They advertize that you can feel “wind from the North” in a dungeoun, with just one of these winds will ALWAYS come from the north.

  • sponge101

    Actually the Tom Clancy’s Hawx game pc peripheral “amBX” did something similar to this. Obviously that device only worked with that one game and it wasn’t aimed specifically at vr but it was a interesting attempt nonetheless. Not sure if anything came before that was actually a consumer released product.

    But I digress, people are going look at this ‘Petal’ and scoff. Well, I think it’s a great idea. Since we’re branching out into so many different vr feedbacks why not introduce a breath of fresh air (sorry) into the marketplace. In the 4th quarter when hopefully I have the consumer oculus, virtuix omni, and the KOR-FX, the petal could be a wonderful addition to that setup. However, implementation and execution is another issue and time will tell.

  • snake0

    Linking so many different peripherals together is going to be a nightmare. What we really need is an open haptic platform similar to that open sensor project (I think it was called Track IR or something) where you have multiple modules that can be linked together in different ways. Sure it won’t feel *exactly* the same as air blowing on your face but lets face it, no one is going to buy this shit.

  • Runewell

    I like the daisy chain feature and I do think it will be a useful product in the future. It feels like a product that really requires the CV1 to be out first before the demand is there, this is a tough sell right now even with the VR enthusiast crowd. I wish it had a heating and cooling component to it as I would be onboard 100% if it could simulate cold/hot environments.