Virtual Reality could expand Formula 1's reach

Virtual reality is fast becoming useful in many different aspects of life. Beyond entertainment it has established a huge range of uses, from travel planning to healthcare, and seemingly everywhere in between. And seemingly inevitably, it’s now time to look at the technology’s possible impact on the world of Formula 1 and other motorsports.

Four factors come to mind in this discussion: VR’s popularity, where it works best, how it applies to F1, and what its impact on sports fans can be. So, let’s tackle them one by one.

VR’s Popularity

VR’s popularity is difficult to get a handle on. Statistics are sort of all over the place, and it’s hard to determine if it’s a “next big thing” sort of technology or a blip on the radar. The most accurate characterisation is probably somewhere in the middle. What does seem clear though is that VR has the potential to get more popular and gain more influence.

As one writer put it, it’s clear that VR has gone from being a bit of a gimmick to being an integral part of the technology of the future. This seems like a fair assessment, and one that indicates more (and more popular) functions for the tech, which could include F1-related programs among countless other things.

Where VR Works Best

A look at where VR works best actually bodes well for Formula 1 integration - meaning if we simply look at early game and experience adoption, F1 seems to fit right in, because the best experiences require little in the way of locomotion. Take shooters, for instance. These most popular of modern games have in many cases been adopted such that players can effectively sit on a track, shooting opponents as they move along fixed paths.

Or consider some of the simpler games making it into VR. Following cards and board games, a whole category of 3D titles in the casino industry is beginning to seep into VR, requiring only that players sit and look around as if they’re in real casinos sitting at slot reels.

And then of course there are racing games, which despite high-speed action only ask that players sit as if in cars. Formula 1 VR experiences should satisfy this basic requirement of an early, successful game: very little physical movement is necessary to make the experience realistic.

VR and F1

Though many may not realise it, there are already some links and expected links between virtual reality and Formula 1. These links include some fairly advanced concepts, such as testing car concepts in advanced simulations, as well as training drivers or helping them practice in similar simulations. However, it’s also been argued that the main benefit will be the fan experience. Said Ted Kravitz, an F1 technical expert for Sky Sports, one of the things done quite well in motorsports is immersion, and that immersion can be given to fans.

Simply put, a highly realistic virtual reality experience can put a fan in the cockpit of a Formula 1 vehicle, such that it’s not just like any other racing game, but he or she can really gain an understanding of everything that’s going on inside the car. Motorsport is, as Kravitz put it, the right platform for this kind of immersive fan experience.

VR and Sports Fans

All of the above establishes that Formula 1 is a good fit for virtual reality, in more ways than one. As for the technology’s ability to expand the sport’s reach, however, it bears mentioning that some video games can create sports fans. This is no revelation to you, in all likelihood, if you’ve spent time playing sports video games. Plenty of people have become soccer fans because they enjoyed FIFA, or gained a better understanding of the NFL through Madden games, etc. It follows logically that an immersive, high-end VR game based on Formula 1 could create whole new legions of racing fans. It’s not as if there have never been good racing games or even specifically F1 games. But this would reach a new level of sophistication that would quite possibly rope in a larger audience. The potential impact on the sport would seem to be substantial.