Virtual environments. Real-world racing.
Last month we had the opportunity to check out Master of Shapes’ VR go-kart experience, a bold new location-based venture that blends virtual reality racetracks with real-world racing.
Developed in partnership with Intel, K1 Speed, and Black Trax, the one-of-a-kind experience allows participants to race against the clock as they navigate a virtual environment mapped to a real-world track. Similar to existing arcade-style racing games, the VR track is riddled with various power ups to obtain and hazards to avoid.
Intel and Master of Shapes are currently testing the VR racing experience at K1 Speed’s racetrack in Gardena, California, allowing lucky participants to race through a post apocalyptic Tokyo environment, complete with speed boosts, lasers, scattered wreckage, wildfires, and plenty of synth wave music.
One major goal for the team was to introduce a certain level of gamification that would be impossible to recreate in a standard go-kart experience.
Over the course of six weeks, Master of Shapes Lidar scanned the entire 190 ft by 160 ft racetrack before outfitting the perimeter with 28 individual cameras to track driver positions while in VR. Using an Arduino-compatible board referred to as the Teensy, the program is able to read any changes in the steering, throttle, or brake and respond in real-time.
This means that as the player turns their steering wheel in real-life, the virtual wheel turns as well. Power-ups, such as as speed boosts, also affect the mobility of the vehicle; so when a player drives over a speed boost marker in-game, their vehicle speeds up in the real-world. Traps, such as fire, have the opposite effect, limiting the karts speed and costing players valuable time.
VR racing has been under testing at the K1 Speed Gardena location since September 5th with plans to release publicly sometime next year. As of right now, there’s only the one post apocalyptic Tokyo environment available, but the team has already expressed interest in offering various other environments to race through, most likely something tropical.
Masters of Shapes previously collaborated with Castrol Edge to create the Titanium Strong Virtual Racers project, where professional drivers used VR headsets to race one another in real-time while on different physical tracks.
Image Credit: Masters of Shapes / Intel / K1 Speed