Following the lead of sports leagues like the NBA and the NFL, auto racing is starting to embrace virtual reality — and it's all going to begin with the Great American Race. Yes, this weekend's Daytona 500 will be broadcast in VR thanks to a new five-year partnership between Fox Sports and NextVR.
The VR broadcast will be filmed in three different perspectives: the start / finish line, the middle of the Daytona infield, and next to the pit crews while they perform pit stops. (Sadly, no in-car cameras.) There will also be audio commentary and live graphics showing who's leading the race.
No in-car cameras, though
There are, of course a few caveats. For one, you'll need a GearVR, so Google Cardboard users are out of luck. Also, viewers won't be able to choose which perspective they're watching from. They'll only be able to watch the one main feed in the NextVR app, and the broadcast will rotate between the different perspectives automatically. The broadcast also won't be fully immersive — rather, viewers will be presented with a 180-degree field of view they can explore. It will be in 3D, like all of the content that NextVR has broadcast in the past.
NASCAR is no stranger to trying new things — it's spent the last decade or so making dozens of changes, big and small, to things like the design of its cars, the broadcasts, and the way the season championship is awarded. In that respect it's no surprise that the series is leading the charge into something like virtual reality. Considering the biggest complaint that non-fans levy against the sport is that it's too boring to watch on television, this seems like a step in the right direction. But it'll be a long time before virtual reality can realistically supply the feeling of seeing 40 cars with 800 horsepower in person.
Correction: All of NextVR's content is in 3D, not just this broadcast as originally implied.