Starting with the next race at Long Beach, Formula E will be offering computer generated recreations of its races that fans will be able to watch from right in the action thanks to virtual reality. This is just a prelude to an even more exciting prospect too, with the sport aiming to allow races to be watched in real time through VR, which could happen sooner than we think, with it planned to be in place before the conclusion of the Formula E second season in July.
In these virtual reality experiences, watchers will be able to be a part of the action from the perspective of any of the 18 drivers or from a number of locations around the virtual track. They will also be free to explore a virtual paddock and freely view any of the courses, like a virtual circuit walk. Audio from the races will also be included in the experience and, for this season, at least, will be entirely free of charge.
The data in order to make these experiences comes thanks to a partnership with San Francisco-based company Virtually Live, who employ a number of physical trackers and advanced image recognition software in order to map the race recreation on a computer generated representation of the circuit. Virtually Live told The Verge that they had been privately testing live broadcasting since December in Uruguay, with them estimating that these real-time streams could be available as soon as the Paris race on April 23rd.
For now, the race simulations will be available in the days after the race itself through the Oculus, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR stores, although those using more budget mobile VR solutions such as Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard will be out of luck due to the limitations of their platform.
Technologies like VR are changing the way we may watch sports in future. A number of competitions already offer live streams complete with real-time metrics online, with Formula E itself having free live streams of its races available including 360-degree video replays. With racing series like Formula 1 cracking down on the number of ways that fans can watch the sport, the increasing availability of Formula E could just let its popularity grow even further.