Wednesday October 10, 2018

Vortx Blows While You Game

Last month, Whirlwind FX launched a curious desktop gaming accessory. Vortx is a fan about the size of a desktop speaker that constantly analyzes audio and video from games, and reacts accordingly. Ski down a snowy mountain, and it'll blow room temperature air. If there's an explosion on screen, you'll get a puff of hot air. According to some reviews, the tech works surprisingly well in some game sequences, while failing miserably in others. Vortx also posted a launch video last month, which you can see below, and the product costs $120 on their website.

When it correctly identifies the environment, the Vortx delivers an incredible layer of realism. In Battlefield, I felt the heat from a burning tank and gusts of air as vehicles passed. Similarly, the Vortx responded to the opening mountain climbing scene in Rise of the Tomb Raider as though it were made for it, delivering bursts of air whenever the on-screen wind picked up. However, there was still a disconnect, since the "cool" air isn't as intense as a snowy chill or even a refrigerator. Meanwhile, the heat can be intense, but not uncomfortably so. The device was less impressive with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The Vortx seemed to be confused by the underwater sequences, firing puffs of air warm while Lara was swimming. It also intermittently delivered puffs of warm air when there was no apparent source, which is a problem it has across multiple games. These instances break the immersion, causing me to search for the source of heat instead of focusing on what's going on. Over time, the Vortx warms to a point where cool blasts become less noticeable, adding to the list of sensory problems.