VR to battle dust and heat at Burning Man

by Ian Hamilton • August 3rd, 2015

VR enthusiast Shannon Norrell plans to find out how well the hot dust-filled Nevada desert agrees with the Oculus Rift.

Each year, thousands gather for Burning Man in a free-for-all art party, which is most famous for its giant eye-catching temporary installations of whatever comes into the minds of the sometimes drug-influenced pilgrims venturing out there. For this year’s Burning Man, which runs Aug. 30 to Sept. 7, Norrell is planning a VR Camp on the playa with headset demo stations, motion-capture suits and a giant projection screen all in hopes of embedding the emerging VR art scene into the culture of the temporary desert community.

“VR is kind of in the spirit of Burning Man,” Norrell said. “You can do whatever you feel like.”

But how will Norrell deal with the dust and the heat of the desert? Sand is toxic to the lenses of the Rift headsets and bad for computers. Heat might not only create a hefty amount of sweat to be wiped or dried from the headsets, but it can create problems for the expensive graphics cards needed to run the Rift from a PC.

For that he’s planning to have swamp coolers for tents housing the computers and Rift dev kits. There will be generators for power and the tents will be blocked by double doors as a kind of makeshift airlock. He’s planning a ritual of using compressed air cans to clear away the dust.

“Inside of a tent at burning man it’s not that hot…I think we’ll be ok,” Norrell said. “If the whole thing burns down, at least we tried.”

He’s planning to have a Vive too with a wireless connection to the projection screen outside that will stream what people are making in art creation app Tiltbrush.

Norrell raised $4,210 on Indiegogo to support the project and is hoping to get another $10,000 for the event on Kickstarter, though he’s only raised a fraction of that goal with a few weeks remaining. He estimated it would cost him $35,000 to put together the camp.

“I’m having to pay for it all myself,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making it happen.”

Feature image courtesy of Flickr 

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