Is Virtual Reality ready for F1 prime time?


Our friend Chris wrote a story for Forbes that discusses the role of VR or virtual reality in Formula 1. Of course VR is becoming all the rage and if you are playing Pokémon Go (AR), then you may already be hooked on the type of technology available.

Now, the article is an informative piece about how Tata Communications, F1 provider of broadband and communications, is really ramping up to offer new technologies to F1 fans. There may be a throng of you excited to hear this and Chris does a nice job of tying all the loose ends up but I’m not the best person to ask about this tidal wave of giddiness over VR.

I’ve been in the technology industry my entire life and I have seen all manner of emerging technologies come and go. Some of them have been really interesting technologies but for many reasons, they never made it out of the valley of the adoption curve. I could go way back but that would bore you and expose my age so I will start with a few more recent examples.

Think of 3-D TV. It’s been around since the early days but when they decided to bring it to the home, it didn’t really catch on. Think of curved screens, not so much. Think of F1’s digital TV experience a few years ago with multiple cameras—very expensive and not around anymore.

As a technologist, I’ve always liked technology but despised technology that was created and pushed as a must-have when it was really created just because we can—a product searching for a market/ What is a legitimate move? The quest for resolution is always a ripe field for progress and 4K displays and content is and will be a reality and ubiquitous—eventually. That’s a good direction for Tata.

“With millions of fans globally, the sport needs to engage with its audience using a wide range of mediums, which will ultimately lead to a digital transformation of the F1 racing experience, making each year more exhilarating than the last. To keep delighting fans year on year, the sport is seeing a rapid influx of new technologies like 4K [ultra high definition] and virtual reality, and hence presents unique opportunities and lessons for the technology and telecoms industry.”

So is VR the right direction? In certain application-specific situations, I think it will be for sure. For watching races? I’m not sure I am as convinced as Tata is. Would you like to put a headset on and watch the view from Lewis Hamilton’s visor? Sure, who wouldn’t? Would you like to do that for most of the race? Not me.

I don’t like technology gimmicks just like I don’t like F1 gimmicks or contrivances. What I feel is a more germane issue to F1 broadcast is a comprehensive coverage with more meaningful content and insightful information, more insider content within the F1 world from teams, garages, sponsors, drivers and FOM itself. A multi-screen experience is popular now but live tweeting a race is really a bit superfluous. I saw what happened, I don’t spend 5 minutes reading people’s tweet about what just happened and I am not sure who is not watching the race but following the race on Twitter. Maybe I’m wrong here but that seems odd too.

What it says to me is that people like watching F1 with other people and it’s this ages’ social media version of sitting on a couch with my friends watching the race…except my friends are there so I have to tweet them.

So what would be a good idea would be to create a more comprehensive viewer experience with access to big data that the teams are watching and an embedded communication system to allow fans to communicate, have viewing parties and be…well…social. VR? I’m not quite sure I’m buying it. I hope I’m wrong and it pays big dividends.

Hat Tip: Forbes

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Meine Postma

You might have a point there sonny.