Virtual wins only when you can’t compare it to the physical

A couple of times a year I’ll get together with some good friends for a motor-sport related activity. Together we’ve attended F1 Grand Prix events, visited motor shows and gone karting. Last week they invited me to Pure Tech Racing to ‘compete’ in a virtual simulator. I was dubious, especially when I learnt it was just as expensive to ‘play the game’ as it was to have 30mins in a ‘real’ kart.

“Trust me”, I was told, “this is better than karting”.

At first skeptical, I left having had one of the best few hours of ‘motor sport’ I can remember. Pure Tech Racing houses several linked simulators; you are briefed on driving technique and racing etiquette before lowering yourself into an F1-style body shell (with genuine feet in the air seating position). In front of you are three screens, wrapping around your field of vision, and headphones to pipe the action directly into your ears. After 15 minutes qualifying you race. The simulators offer full movement, the steering wheel (a genuine race-wheel I was told) delivers force feedback, and within minutes you forget that the whole experience is virtual.

On the drive home it got me thinking. Before I visited Pure Tech Racing I’d dismissed the idea as nothing more than an expensive video game. It could, I assume, offer no competition to the live event of hurtling around a karting track, smelling burnt fuel and oil in your nostrils. But I’d missed the point. Had these simulators offered a virtual karting experience I’d have no doubt been disappointed, but they offered an experience that in the physical world was well out of my price-range and skill set. This is where a virtual experience really comes into its own – deliver something that the consumer can’t compare to the physical world and it’ll be accepted.

Is this always the case? I can’t think of an exception.

NB – Pure Tech Racing. Thanks for the great experience…but you need to get serious about using apostrophes in your strapline Lets Race [sic].

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