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The first Augmented Reality race in the world happened today

An augmented/virtual reality race happened today – with real cars being driven around for real and drivers looking at a completely different environment!

It is all fun and games when you’re using your virtual reality headset, smartphones or your augmented reality visors in the comfort of your living room, going on adventures all around the real and imaginary world. But things got a little serious today at the first augmented reality race in the world. Enabled with a VR headset with gyro sensors and a 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec fitted with GPS sensors, the race involved influencers taking the driving seat in the real world while looking at a virtual environment.

A view of the car in the last environment

Acura broadcasted ‘What A Race’ live on their Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter feed. Hosted by Ryan Eversley, a race car driver for the RealTime Racing Acura team, and actor Bradley Hasemeyer, it was a unique driving experience that involved four influencers – Zachary Levi (of Chuck and Tangled fame), Maude Garrett (Geekbomb), Sam Gorski (Corridor Digital) and Dom Esposito (Macmixing).

The Arctic environment

The contestants each took their turn at the wheel, completing the course of 3 laps with each lap simulating a different virtual environment. While the first course was an icy Arctic environment, the second and third courses were Jungle environment and Volcanic environment respectively. Each of these had their own lap design and obstacle placement. Each lap had to completed by returning to the start position. In the real world, this was a hanger at a marine base. The total time for the three laps together would determine who was the fastest.

The Jungle environment

How did it work

To accurately judge the position of the car on the course, a pair of GPS sensors coordinating between the car and the course was used. Within the car, the gyroscopic sensors on the helmet helped determine the positioning of the driver’s head. The visor was an ordinary driving helmet fitted with a display and connected to a powerful computer in the backseat for maintaining a smooth and seamless driving experience. For the drive mode, the hosts went with Sports Plus to be the best choice for the course and to feel ample road feedback, which would be helpful for drivers who are not even looking at the road.

Acura AR helmets
A view of the cockpit – the visors do remind us of a certain pair of cats

While that was what the drivers experienced, viewers had to experience a stuttered feed of the virtual world. This could possibly be because viewers were not looking at a direct feed from the driver’s visor and were rather looking at a game engine render of a virtual bumper cam, which worked off the positioning data.

The Volcanic environment

To increase the accuracy further, sensors were tapping into the ABS system in the car to measure the wheelspin. The combination of all this data led to an experience for the drivers that was evidently exciting and immersive. Check out the full race below.

Viewers could also be involved in the race. How? With their reactions to the live telecasts – The more likes and support a particular user would get, their courses would be simplified in turn making it easier for them to avoid penalties (which, by the way, can affect you more than an actual delay due to stopping).

Results?

So, this was a race and there was obviously a winner. The final standings looked like this:

  • First: Sam Gorski
  • Second: Maude Garrett
  • Third: Zachary Levi
  • Fourth: Dom Esposito

But at the end of the day, the winner was augmented and virtual reality technology. This race was a true demonstration of how the world is ready for full-scale AR and VR gaming to take over and in fact, give rise to a whole new genre of augmented games and sports.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.