In the past year virtual reality (VR) has blossomed from the preserve of niche tech applications into the mainstream, with the launch of a wealth of new devices and services.
As with any new technology, brands have been quick to explore opportunities to promote their products and engage with consumers in an entirely new way, with sports teams leading the way, as they so often do.
Now we are starting to see applications of VR in motorsport emerge, demonstrating the innate potential that motor racing offers for this new technology.
Bringing motorsport to the fans
With the majority of motorsports fans not able to afford to travel the world to attend race events, VR offers the opportunity to feel as though you are right there in the thick of the action.
Furthermore, fans won’t just be restricted to picking a spectator spot alongside the circuit – they could chose to sit on the apex of a corner or even in the middle of the track, with cars flying past within touching distance.
This is a unique and immersive experience that no other technology can offer, and one that change how fans consume motorsport from their homes. As such, sponsors and technical partners will be eager to adopt VR to increase their exposure and drive greater consumer engagement.
Innovative series lead the way
FIA Formula E has been one of the earliest adopters of VR in motorsport, reinforcing the series’ dedication to innovation and fan engagement
Fans of the all-electric racing series are able to watch computer-generated recreations of races in VR from the perspective of any of the 18 drivers or from a number of virtual camera locations around each racing circuit. However, fans won’t be constrained to single locations, they’re also able to explore the paddock and freely roam around the virtual reconstruction of each track at no charge.
Formula E eventually wants to allow fans to watch races in VR in real time in the near future, providing them with truly unique experiences that even those at the highest echelons of global motorsport are not able to gain access.
This is a huge innovation that brings real value to fans’ viewing experiences and grows their affinity for the series at a time when more established motorsport categories, such as Formula 1, are making it harder and more expensive for fans to watch live racing.
Of course, with the average full-VR headset costing around £350, it will be some time before the technology becomes truly mainstream. However, some current generation smartphones already offer functionality and this is a trend that is set to continue in coming years, making virtual reality more affordable.
With so many companies already investing in hardware and programs, we have already seen a wealth of brands creating new engagement experiences in the past year, and we can expect this trend to grow exponentially in 2016.
Motorsport could be ultimate theatre for VR owing to its global following of dedicated fans who feel the need for speed. Expect to see a flurry of new VR initiatives in the next 12 months as VR adoption continues to grow and offers a greater return for sponsors.