Adding An­other Di­men­sion

A video game pro­vides vir­tual ac­cess to the wa­ter for any­one with an in­ter­net con­nec­tion.

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

O I tighten the head­set around my head and pull the gog­gles over my eyes. No, I’m not step­ping on a high-per­for­mance race boat, I’m go­ing sail­ing, vir­tu­ally in VR Re­gatta: The Sail­ing Game. The owner of Base Sta­tion VR in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, flips a switch, and I’m trans­ported to a trop­i­cal bun­ga­low sur­rounded by crys­tal-clear wa­ter. Look­ing around the room, I see a num­ber of wall hang­ings — one fea­tures high scores of other play­ers. I walk out­side where two boats are tied to the dock: a keel­boat and a Laser.

I se­lect the lat­ter and opt for a sun­set sail to fig­ure out the con­trols. I press the ig­ni­tion and start mo­tor­ing away from the dock. I bring in the main­sail us­ing the pedestal in the mid­dle of the boat and trim the jib with a winch. Trim­ming the sails cor­rectly and steer­ing the boat at the right an­gle di­rectly trans­lates to the boat’s VMG.

While VR Re­gatta is a video game, it’s in­cred­i­ble how much tech­nique from real-life sail­ing car­ries over. At­ten­tion and fine­tun­ing is key to sail­ing in VR. The small­est ad­just­ment in steer­ing or trim re­sults in in­stant changes in speed. Sails luff when I go head-to wind, and wa­ter gur­gles when speed in­creases.

It’s re­al­is­tic, says sail­maker Tris­tian Si­naju, of Annapolis, Mary­land, who plays the game. “I’m very im­pressed with the game. It’s not very com­plex, but the con­trols re­spond well, and you can shift your body weight around the dinghy to flat­ten the boat when you’re heel­ing.”

Play­ers can sail a generic keel­boat, racing a down­wind course, or race a Laser on a short course. The Laser re­quires sailors to grip the vir­tual main­sheet tight and use the hand­held con­troller as a tiller ex­ten­sion.

The only ob­vi­ous down­side to sail­ing the boat in VR is that play­ers can’t phys­i­cally feel the heel of the boat, so when a puff hits, there’s a nat­u­ral in­stinct to hike out de­spite no real coun­ter­force.

When first re­leased, VR head­sets and con­trollers weren’t cost-ef­fec­tive, but now a vir­tual-re­al­ity gam­ing setup costs $2,000 or less.

Greg Dziemi­d­ow­icz, the CEO of Marin­ev­erse and creator of VR Re­gatta, tells me that sev­eral clubs in Aus­tralia have in­te­grated the game into their junior sail­ing pro­grams. In­stead of watch­ing a movie or play­ing un­re­lated games dur­ing bad weather, VR Re­gatta helps keep kids fo­cused on the sport, chal­leng­ing each other around the vir­tual race­course, re­view­ing rules and tac­tics, and just re­fresh­ing parts of the boats.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of VR Re­gatta is some­thing the cre­ators of the game don’t even have a grip on them­selves. For now, Marin­ev­erse’s fo­cus is ed­u­ca­tion, but there’s a pos­si­bil­ity the game could evolve to have im­pli­ca­tions for se­ri­ous Corinthi­ans and pro­fes­sion­als, and Marin­ev­erse is al­ways tak­ing user sug­ges­tions on how to fine-tune the game so play­ers get the most out of it. Q

Sail­ing pro­grams in Aus­tralia have in­vested in vir­tual re­al­ity to en­gage ju­niors on a different level. PHOTO : COUR­TESY GREG DZIEMI­D­OW­ICZ

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.