Virtual reality: my first impression

Virtual reality: my first impression

Posted on October 14, 2017

An encounter with iRacing got me thinking about VR’s potential

I first came across virtual reality back in 2015. While traveling the United States I came across the iRacing simulator for the Oculus Rift. Being a keen motor sports fan I of course had to try it!

The iRacing simulator is used by world class racing teams to experience what it looks and feels like to drive on real life tracks, while never having to leave the room. I drove a Radical SR8, similar to the Radical SR3 racing car I had back in Australia. And while the graphics weren’t perfect the general experience “felt right”.

Had it been a bad experience I probably would have forgotten about it, and never given the emerging VR scene a second though. But it wasn’t a bad experience at all – in fact it was awesome. It’s true the simulator had some flaws (as any prototype does) but it still showed me the potential of VR, so much so that I the tech was constantly on my mind for the next 12 months.

What fascinated me about the iRacing simulator and VR was it’s ability to recreate real-world experiences. For example when turning a corner while racing you look at the corner as you get there, and then look at the next corner as you keep driving. This is of course difficult on a normal screen but possible in VR. The simulator also enabled you to turn your head, making you less reliant on simulated mirrors and gave you a more active, realistic experience.

At the time I thought it would take a while before virtual reality would be ready for mass consumption, or even make a dint in the existing tech market. But a year later I was trying the HTC Vive. Two years later I was trying out the new Oculus Rift, a system ten times better than its predecessor. Tech heads might have heard of Moore’s Law, a theory suggesting new tech grows exponentially. Well, Moore’s Law definitely seemed to be in effect with virtual reality.

My experience in software development hasn’t led me to working in the professional racing industry yet. But that first experience with the iRacing simulator showed me the potential for virtual reality to be used across every industry (Devika is currently using VR for industries such as scientific research). Virtual reality can turn tasks that currently take months, into tasks that take minutes.