The prospect of F1 fans being able to race in the virtual space live alongside drivers taking part in a Grand Prix is only two years away, according to Formula 1’s Chief Technical Officer.
The limitation is the accuracy of the GPS positioning of the car on the race track; currently it is accurate to around 200mm, and the goal is just 10mm.
John Morrison was speaking in Austin at the Grand Final of the F1 Connectivity Innovation prize (FCIP), Formula 1’s crowdsourcing challenge, which this year was won by Datu YogaBrata from Singapore. He scooped the trophy and $50,000 top prize, presented by Lewis Hamilton, one of the judges.
“We launched our virtual Grand Prix channel this year, which gives us the platform to produce a fully virtual version of the race live using the data,” said Morrison. “The thing we have to crack is we have to produce accurate positioning.
“Then we can do the gaming stuff and you can be in the car racing against other drivers. I reckon we are about two years away from that. We need accuracy to the nearest centimetre, so cars aren’t touching when they shouldn’t be touching. Right now we are more at 100-200mm accuracy.
I want fans to have a really immersive experience to get very close to the action. We are nearly there now.”
Morrison added that F1 is set to be the first major sport to use 4k; they have carried out proofs of concept and the application to the coverage of F1 is imminent.
This year’s FCIP involved two challenges; one set by Formula One Management and the other by Mercedes F1 team and both were based on how virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) could enhance the Formula 1 experience for fans and help an F1 team to more effectively between the staff at the factory and the race track.
Speaking about the effectiveness of the FCIP as a crowdsourcing challenge Morrison said that the team that won the prize two years ago is now working behind the scenes on a project for F1 Management. “They are designing our interactive onboard application at the moment. We meet the people and put the ideas into practice,” said Morrison.
In the last three seasons, more than 200,000 fans have engaged in the competition through its website, with ideas submitted from 14 countries. JA on F1 readers have a good record in the competition; several of the challenge winners have come from among our readers and the 2015 overall winner Paul Clarke is a JA on F1 reader.
“This competition is unique because it brings in ideas that actually can work, that we can take seriously,” said Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe. “And one way or another they will feed in to the way we shape the sport. It is the most technical sport and that’s what makes it so attractive to so many fans; that depth around the driving, the teams and the technical aspect.
Datu YogaBrata’s idea was to use VR technology and 360 cameras to empower a roaming commentator role, able to provide insightful cameos from various parts of the race track and pits to give fans an immersive experience of all aspects of race weekend activity.
Datu YogaBrata said, “There’s no bigger or more powerful showcase for technological innovation than F1, and VR and AR will push the excitement of the sport even further. My idea aims to capitalise on that by bringing fans closer to the exciting world of F1 than ever before. I’m thrilled that the judges saw the potential of my virtual trackside experience for fans.”
Virtual Reality has begun to be developed and requires several components; clearly key among them is good rich content, which F1 provides, then there is the technology to take it to all corners of the world and then there is the hardware to serve it up.
The plan for F1 would be to give fans the opportunity to be at all the crucial places of the circuit and to experience what is going on, giving them to be at the heart of the action. F1 is about entertainment and many fans will want to watch the main feed, but the VR option provides an opportunity to dip in and out of the deeper immersion into the experience. It is more of a qualitative experience.
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