Vortx is a box that sits on your desk and blows hot or cold air at you while you game

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For years now, peripheral makers have tried to up video game immersion through the use of absolutely unnecessary, largely pointless extras. We’ve seen vests that simulate the feeling of being shot, controllers shaped like chainsaws, ambient, colour-changing lights and a goddamned inflatable raft to play Kinect adventures in.

None of this stuff has ever really caught on in any sort of mainstream, commercially successful way. Despite that looming risk, Whirlwind FX has made the Vortx, a device you plug into your pc that’ll blow air at you, with different heats and intensities depending on the games you’re playing. Take on hellspawn in the fiery labyrinths of Doom, and the device will expel gusts of hot air at you, increasing immersion.

Take off for Skyrim’s colder climes, and the Vortx will adjust its temperature to suit – blasting frigid air at your face. For some reason. Most peripherals of this ilk fail for (at least) one reason: support. They usually require some sort of inherent developer support, so only games that support the device work as intended. That’s apparently not the case with the Vortx. Instead, it uses very clever Environment Experience algorithms to detect what’s happening on screen, and adjust its settings accordingly. That means that it works not just with games, but also movies – and even YouTube video.

The folks behind it say that it uses all sorts of cues.

“Vortx takes both audio and video cues into consideration then uses those cues to determine what the real-life effects will feel like. If you see fire, you’ll feel it as if you were seeing it in real life. If you see an explosion, you’ll feel the rush of air and heat that syncs with what you see on screen.”

While I can see it increasing immersion under certain cases, it all just seems a little too gimmicky to be of any real value. On a technical level, I’m intrigued by how it works – and how quickly it’s able to change its temperatures. How is it heating and cooling the air? does it use compressors and elements? Either way, they’re available to pre-order for a cool (and sometimes hot) $120.

Last Updated: January 11, 2018

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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