Physical computing with air compressors
For the last couple of months we’ve been building an interactive installation for Lufthansa’s media room in Esquire’s Ultimate Bachelor Pad. Invited guests will get the chance to virtually fly through clouds and three-dimensional worlds with our gesture technology.

Typically, the core of an interactive project is experienced through sight and sound. We knew in this particular case, the ultimate bachelor required something special. Since flying is such a sensory experience, we needed to merge technology with physicality. To that end, we thought: what if you were able to feel the wind rushing past you as you were virtually flying through the air?

In our Luxurious studio, we tested this experience with an Arduino board (an external chip that provides digital outputs to software) that could control a fan.

Fan


The fan posed some problems: noise, equipment size and the difficulty to control small increments of air movement. Garrett Nantz and Asa Alger recently flew to LA to further test our technology.

Our design partner for the room, Noam Maitless, recommended Rando Productions, a terrific fabrication company located in North Hollywood. Luxurious Animals, armed with our wit and our trusty Arduino board, channeled our inner-MacGyver with Rando’s team to create a computer-controlled airflow system.

Digital airflow device


To quickly test whether or not this system would work, we tied the mouse position of our computer to the air compressor through the Arduino board. When the mouse was all the way left, it equaled zero, which means no air was released. When we moved the mouse all the way to the right, 100% of the air was released.



The Arduino board sent out a signal from 0-5 volts that controlled the air pressure valve and how much air is released. The valve is connected to an air accelerator, a circular disk that creates a column-shaped air pocket.

The air accelerator is on the right side


The accelerator turns a small amount of compressed air into a wider area of low-pressure air that the user will hopefully feel like wind. Later, the air compressor will be hooked up to a gesture-based system. So when the user steers through the clouds virtually with his hands a digital signal will activate the air compressor to give the further illusion of flight.



The Esquire house is currently under construction. We plan to install the system with the air compressors hidden into the ceiling within the next couple of weeks.

The room
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