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iOpener Media is developing a patented system that makes use of real-time GPS data from racing events and pumps it out to compatible games consoles and PCs, making the players compete against their favourite F1 racers.
"It's clear that the next trend in gaming is going to be bringing real objects into the virtual world; playing not against other gamers but people doing the real thing. You can compete against the best of the best," BBC quoted Andy Lurling, founder of iOpener Media, as saying.
In fact, the idea was so well sketched that the European Space Agency (Esa) has given Lurling's company a grant to develop a proof of concept and a German venture capitalist has already dished out bucks to develop it further.
The game has already been tested with an F1 car and it might just hit the shelves as early as September this year.
"At this point we have lots of interest and we are looking for the right partner to launch," he said.
In fact, the firm is already discussing the project with six developers about using the technology. Also Gareth Wilson, design manager at Bizarre Creations, makers of the Project Gotham Racing series, said he believes that games with the real-time feature would "excite a hardcore minority of gamers".
"Formula 1 and similar complex simulation games are getting less mass market nowadays, compared to their more arcade-style heyday in the late '90s. This sort of feature would probably appeal to the hardcore gamer or F1 fan more than a mass market gamer. Having said that, the hardcore would totally love it," he said.
iOpener's technology is based on an enhanced GPS system known as differential GPS (DGPS), which makes use of a network of fixed base stations to correct the GPS signal, which on its own may only be accurate to within 10m. Generally, DGPS is used for air navigation or shipping, that require precision.
Lurling said that the entire process from car to gamer takes less than five seconds, explaining: "With that we know the location and the velocity of the car."
For more precision, iOpener can use information from the European EGNOS network, which boosts GPS satellite signals to provide positional data accurate to within 2m. Other tweaks include fitting cars with an inertial measurement unit (IMU), commonly used in guided missile systems, which measure acceleration, angle and yaw of the object.
Besides this, the system gathers telemetry data from the car, which is fitted with a small computer, transmitter and the GPS receiver. Telemetry is commonly collected by track-side engineers to monitor the vehicles' performance and can include information such as acceleration and what gear the car is in. This has already been used by games developers to create more realistic simulations.
The data is then sent from the track side to a server farm via net where it is saved before being pumped out -- or "mediacast" -- to eager gamers. The whole process from collecting the data till it reaches the gamers, takes just about 5 seconds.
"We also store the data, so not only can you play the game in real time, but you can replay races at a later date," said Mr Lurling.
Photograph: David Boily/AFP/Getty Images
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