Virtual motor sport becoming a reality

F1 board member Sir Martin Sorrell has been expounding the virtues of virtual reality (VR) and was keen to emphasise the sports need to capatilize on the bourgeoning technology.

“Virtual reality for Formula 1*could be fantastic – driving the car!” Sorrell told the official F1 website.

“In the Ridley Scott film ‘The Martian’ you can do that. I have lifted off in the space craft from the surface of Mars, walked in space and looked down into deep space and got terrified, with the headphones and the goggles.

“The technology is already incredible and will improve massively in the next few years. Think about what you could do.”

Oliver Weingarten worked as the secretary general of the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA), Oliver Weingarten is Formula E’s s rights and partnership advisor at Virtually Live.

“Virtually Live is a virtual reality start up company based in San Francisco with offices around the world,” Weingarten explains.

“We’ve been live testing with Formula E to create an experience for fans unable to attend the race, to still be able to experience what it*would have been like if they had attended. And that is by giving them an immersive and social virtual reality experience.

“The testing that you’ve seen here in Paris and in Long Beach, where we have modelled the circuits and the cars and*ingested the live data direct from Formula E, has enabled us to provide this experience.

“You can choose any position around the track, you can choose any driver’s car, you can sit in the car, you can stand alongside*the car.

Although Formula E races run over a compacted schedule, VR could go a long way to keeping wandering viewers from switching their attention to their mobile-phones, laptops or other sports programmes by allowing fans to engage in the same activities allowed to those at the event. Even more so; areas that are usually reserved to VIP’s and high paying members of the public.

“Additionally within our modelled VIP experience replicating the Emotion club, you can have a social experience", adds Weingarten. "So if your friends are located all across the world and you want to have an appointment to view and watch at the same time, you can spend time together to socialise and watch the race in avirtual environment.”

Where the technology could extend is anyone’s guess. Is it possible that fans could take part in actual media pen session? Some might argue the lines between the news makers and the news consumers is one that should never be crossed, but could (for better or worse) be the next natural progression in a world increasingly obsessed with reality TV.

The next question of course is who gets the revenue from such an initiative? As we’ve seen from both Formula One and V8 Supercars, short-term media deals may top up the coffers, but always at the expense of the general public who can’t afford the broadcast package prices. Likewise, F1’s ever-stretching calendar to countries without massive crowd support doe little for long-term growth.

Formula E’s mantra of bringing motor sport to the people could perfectly compliment VR - enticing those at home to make the short trek to the urban centres where most Formula E races are held.

The race to be the first to get a grip on the latest motor sport sensation is well and truly in full swing.