Members of the HTC Vive and McLaren team.
HTC Vive and McLaren released a special edition Vive Pro McLaren Limited Edition headset at Abu Dhabi’s Grand Prix circuit on November 23. Javin Jain attended the launch and caught up with Ramit Harisinghani, Vice President, HTC MEA and Rob Bloom, Group Digital Director, McLaren. Here’s what they had to say about the partnership and the potential of VR for McLaren as a race team.
How significant is this partnership for HTC Vive?
Harisinghani: This is a great example of a brilliant partnership; our headset actually has the McLaren branding and from an aesthetics stand point we have included McLaren elements in our products as well. But the strength of the partnership is also defined by the content that is being created: There are two awesome pieces of content that you can experience right now which are both very relevant to racing and McLaren. We are going to be creating more of such content going forward. The content will also ultimately solve some of the bigger challenges as well such as how do you train the youth on motorsport racing? The VR simulator was a brilliant example – Fernando Alonso was on it for more than three minutes, trying to get through the laps. Imagine using that in training schools. There is a lot more to come in the future when it comes to this partnership.
How many people are involved in the project from McLaren and Vive?
Bloom: At McLaren marketing we have about 70 people. Within that we have a digital, social and communications, and a brand creative design team. We have linked in all of those different departments to work with HTC Vive, both in the content development and also in terms of bringing the story to this event. That includes our event team as well, so we have got all of the skillsets in McLaren to be able to activate this kind of partnership. It is really about locking all of these skillsets for this kind of activation.
Do you plan to allow F1 fans around the world to watch any action from McLaren practice sessions and even aspects of live F1 in VR?
Bloom: At the moment we are taking our first steps in VR. We have gone from having no virtual reality experience in McLaren’s Formula 1 world to being able to bring our fans into our garage; we can show them around the car, we can get them to feel like they’re a part of the team in performing the pit stop. Who knows what the future holds. I think there is a lot to be done first and foremost, to really bridge that proximity gap between our team and our fans to unlock new experiences through immersive technology.
How are you seeing uptake of these kinds of VR experiences?
Harisinghani: To a large extent it is about collaboration that happens. The fact that the governments here in the region are so innovative and forward thinking helps us to put the ecosystem in place. When you have the government, customers and the right partners working with you in terms of associations like HTC Vive and McLaren it helps develop the ecosystem towards a bigger goal.
Uptake of VR is going to be defined when consumers start seeing that it will be used for entertainment as well as for other applications. Here we have a top racing driver trying it out.
How is Vive performing in the Middle East? How is the sale of headsets going, and do you see 2019 as your breakthrough year?
Harisinghani: The sales are great and the ecosystem is growing. It is not only about the sale of the headsets but also about Viveport which is our own platform that sells experiences, and we have subscriptions as well. What we are doing well is working with the developers to put local content in Viveport which gives it a lot more relevance, so Middle East users will find a lot of relevant content from the region as well.
What are your expectations for 2019?
Harisinghani: 2019 is going to be great, mostly because of convergence. What we are working towards is Vive Reality, where we are going to start seeing convergence of many technologies; once 5G is ready in the region, we are going to be ready with the immersive technologies, and of this is going to come together and we will create something magical.
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