Virtual reality is still a fairly new concept, at least in its modern form. Yet it’s already starting to impact all walks of life. VR is being implemented in retail and real estate, in healthcare and education, and as is written about most frequently, in gaming and sport. It’s this last category that’s of particular interest to us, given that a few of the developments we’ve already seen in VR indicate it could ultimately help expand interest in extreme 4×4.
We’ll start with the idea of gaming, which is pretty straightforward. VR developers are adding new gaming titles to the market at a rapid pace, and in the early going, racing titles are among the most impressive. Racing was mentioned as one of the best genres for VR in an article back in 2016, and nothing has changed that in the year or so since. The main perk for these games is that they don’t involve any actual human movement. They’re designed in a first person “cockpit” style, such that players can look around but not actually move around, just as it is in a real car or vehicle. This natural fit makes racing games feel more natural than most other VR experiences.
To be clear though, we’re not only talking about, say, NASCAR or Formula 1 simulations. The idea of a “racing game” can actually be pretty broad as it relates to VR. It might include future versions of Mario Kart for instance, or fantastical space piloting adventures – really, anything in which the player need only sit, look, and steer. The most relevant existing example for extreme 4×4 fans at this stage is probably Moto Racer 4, which features PlayStation VR support, albeit in a somewhat limited capacity. It’s not a full-fledged VR moto game, but it does offer an opportunity to traverse interesting, sometimes off-road terrain on bikes.
You get the idea with regard to VR gaming. A similar experience built around off-road extreme 4×4 vehicles could make for a pretty wild ride. As for actually expanding interest in extreme 4×4 though, it’s not just about the gaming. It’s also about the idea that fans of the activity could view it from the perspective of professionals thanks to small cameras and VR.
The model for this is drone racing, of all things. In case you haven’t been paying attention, drone racing has essentially become a sport in the last year. “Pilots” are now getting airtime on ESPN, piloting small drones through courses and racing one another for top prizes. Spectators get treated to multiple perspectives during these races. Sometimes the view simply shows drones whizzing around, only identifiable because they’re lit up in different colors. But sometimes the view switches to a camera angle from the perspective of one of the drones – the same feed that pilots are viewing through VR headsets in order to pilot the machines. As one article on the rise of drone racing quoted a drone pilot as saying, anybody with imagination gets into it, because they can defy gravity and feel like a superhero.
Now apply the same concept to extreme 4×4. It’s very unlikely that this becomes a sport that earns a slot on ESPN (though we wouldn’t say it’s entirely outside the realm of possibility). But by fixing cameras on the front of vehicles, extreme 4×4 drivers could enable feeds to be watched online, and potentially in VR as well. This would give more people the sensation of actually being along for the ride, and could encourage more viewership, as well as more actual participation in the activity.
Don’t be surprised to see these kinds of changes develop over the coming months and years.