There was a very interesting invitation during the Chinese GP to spend half a session in the back of the Mercedes AMG Petronas garage, in a viewing gallery for the team’s VIPs. This allows them not only to see what is going on in the pit, but also to listen in to team radio and to enjoy the team’s augmented reality technology that has been provided by partner Epson, in order to give the visitors access to more information.
Most of us think of Epson as a manufacturer of printers, but today the Seiko Epson Corporation has diversified into a number of new technologies including new generation projectors, sensing systems, industrial robots and smart glasses. The company introduced its Moverio technology to F1 in Australia, which meant that the Mercedes VIPs can not only watch the team in action, but can enjoy a range of user-selected content, ranging from personnel information to videos explaining different aspects of the team’s activities and live social media feeds. The content is overlaid on the lenses of the glasses and this means that the team can use it to explain such things as the anatomy of a pit stop, who is who in the garage and much more.
Motion sensors in the Moverio BT-200 eyewear allow the viewers to select what they want to see using eye tracking technology. This explains why the various F1 journalists pictured above (including me) all appear to be looking in different directions, either watching the garage activity, or trying out other features such as the time sheets that appear in the glasses as well. It is certainly a fascinating technology and one can imagine it might be used not only for VIPs, but also in the future to help engineering teams to identify problems and find ways to fix them. If one imagines a mechanic looking at a complex assembly, with glasses fitted with a camera, he might, for example, be able to get access to images of how the various parts work correctly or advice from engineer who could be watching the same footage on the other side of the world at Mercedes in Brackley. The idea is already being used by some Epson service engineers when they are out on the road.
The other thing that could come from such a system is access to the same technology for F1 fans at home in front of their TVs. There is still plenty to be developed, but the concept is certainly fascinating.