McLaren has partnered with HTC Vive to provide driver and pit-crew experiences through virtual reality content
Virtual reality and augmented reality technology has the potential to “bridge the gap” between Formula One teams and their supporters as well as create new fans of the sport ahead of new seasons, according to Rob Bloom, the group digital director at McLaren Racing.
Bloom’s comments come after McLaren and HTC Vive launched a co-created limited addition headset, which offers a VR racing experience to fans. Additionally, the headset was paired with a “McLaren Garage” VR experience which simulates being part of the McLaren pit crew as they perform tasks performance tire adjustments as they do in a F1 race.
Speaking to Arabian Business following the launch, Bloom said that McLaren has spent the last several years working to bridge the “proximity gap” between the team and its fans.”
“We do that through digital and social engagement and contact, and this was the next step,” he said. “The immersive experience, through VR in particular, has opened the doors for us to be able to continue to bring our fans closer to the team…..technology is at the right place at the moment. It wasn’t a long time ago that fans weren’t able to get anywhere near the garage.”
Additionally, Bloom said that the VR technology has given McLaren and Formula One as a whole “a great opportunity to engage new fans through the use of technology.”
“It equally can be used to engage our existing fans,” We’ve got a huge global fan base and this is enriching their experience. A younger fan, and the relationship their seeking, is the deepest we’ve ever known.”
Speaking at the launch of the McLaren and HTC Vive headset, recently retired two time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso said that he believes that eventually virtual and augmented reality technology can be used to help training F1 drivers and their support teams.
“It’s still to be discovered what the potential is with virtual reality,” he said. “I think the Formula One team is not just driver training. There a lot of areas in the team that can still be trained and further improved through virtual reality.”
In January, McLaren will use the technology for the finals of its “Shadow Project”, an eSports programme in which all the finalists will train and compete using the Vive Pro headset.