vim-asterisk (GitHub: haya14busa/vim-asterisk, License: MIT) by haya14busa aims to improve the
* motion. The
* motion itself searches forward for the word nearest the cursor, so it's quite useful once you get used to it.
However, vim-asterisk allows you to search within visual selections and it uses smartcase by default which seems more natural to me.
haya14busa notes that the visual search feature is based on vim-visualstar.