Virtual Reality, Racing and the Future

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

There’s certain things that change how we see the world. The internet made all information worth knowing (or not worth knowing) easily accessible. Smartphone + internet made 80% of the world population have all that information readily available at your finger tips. Social media brought the world closer together. Some may argue, too close. Instagram turned everyone into photographers. And UBER Eats brought us all one step closer to the characters in “Wall-E”. Technology is ever-evolving. As the old saying goes: “the only thing constant, is change”. Motorsport has often been at the forefront of technological advances in the way the world uses transportation. Where do you think new tech is tested? Sure, in labs, simulators, test tracks and common sense. But the real test is in the “arena” of racing. Carbon fiber, seat belts, tire compounds, suspension capabilities, side impact and crush points, aerodynamics, the list goes on. All those things are built, tested and refined on the race track under the most strenuous conditions those things can endure. Kinetic Energy Recovery, or KERS, was developed in Formula 1. Simply put, the energy dispersed under braking is gathered from the brakes and reverted back into the battery/hybrid system of your vehicle as a form of “self charging”. Racing is relevant and necessary for your daily commute to and from work or to pick up the kids from soccer practice. Whether you realize it or not. But what about advances in the viewer/fan experience? Like all sports, racing is struggling to gain and hold the attention of a world obsessed with instant gratification. But racing has a few things that other sports lack. And I think I’ve got an idea on how to introduce an experience that will be second to none. Hear me out:

Motorsport in person is visceral, loud, all-senses encompassing entertainment. Depending on the type of event, you can physically feel the cars as they pass by. People have reported at places like Indianapolis, cars go by so fast, if you’re standing close enough, the amount of air disruption passing you will literally take your breath away. NHRA or high levels of drag racing is so loud and powerful that it shakes the earth in the 3–5 seconds that they roar down track. Not to mention the ear drum shattering decibels that they create in a single pass. If I can make one suggestion to you: see NHRA in person! It is unlike anything on the earth. With all the physical and sensory overload that racing provides there is one thing that it has and may always lack, and that’s viewer perspective. Unless your at an oval or drag strip, you can only see one part of the track at a time. Some places have big screens within track limits where you can see that portion of the track, plus the live feed. But what if we could bring all the physical and sensory things discussed above, and put you in the drivers helmet?

Photo by Lloyd Dirks on Unsplash

Ladies and gentlemen I offer you “In-car VR”. Day dream with me for a second. You’re at home, chillin’ on the couch, it’s race day, you strap on your VR headset, sit down with your favorite beverage, and you find yourself transported into the eye balls of your favorite driver with a full virtual reality experience. You literally are in the drivers seat, fully immersed, surround sound and all. Meanwhile you’re in the safety and comfort of your own home. Indycar has changed the game with their helmet cams they introduced this year. With more refinement and better sound quality being able to be made 5.0 or more, you’re not getting any closer to the action. You’re basically in the action! Now dig this: you can switch cars/views anytime. Imagine your “In-car” with the leader, but notice on the tracker that the action is getting hot and heavy between the cars in 8th-10th places. Voice activated, you ask Siri or Alexa or Cortana or whomever your voice system is, to switch you to the 9th place cars perspective. Now you’re right in the midst of the fight. No distractions. Nothing view-able besides the perspective of going 200+ mph door to door with other maniacs ballsy enough to do it for real. With the sound quality that could be provided, you’ll be able to hear the paddle shifts and the sounds of the tires screaming for dear life as they defy all logic and laws of reasoning. Guys, this has to be a thing. It would be awesome. And we didn’t even dive into the idea of doing it at the track!

Racing has to stay at the forefront of technology. Be it from the automotive stand point (see my thoughts on Porsche leaving LMP1 in the WEC) but also from an entertainment perspective. You can watch anything, anytime, anywhere these days. Obtaining entertainment has never been easier. With that comes options and sometimes options can be a bad thing, especially when you’re already a niche sport (I’m looking at you golf and lacrosse). So improving fan experience with new tech is a must to stay ahead of the curve. Being in the drivers seat of a racecar, mid-race, would be unlike any other sport on the planet. Nothing will compare to the speed and ferocity that takes place on a race track. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, “What about VR on a running back, shooting the A gap on 3rd and 1?” Yeah, that’d be awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not Fernando Alonso shooting a gap at Monza, going into turn one, at 195mph.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

VR is apart of our entertainment future. Hell, it’s already here. Time to bring views and perspectives to the masses in ways that only VR can. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.