How can three skiers race each other down the same hill at the same time when they're hundreds of miles apart? Withvirtual reality headsets, a smartphone app and a 4G LTE connection, that's how.
Described as a "mixed reality" race, this contest pits real-life skier Vegard Engen -- known as Dr V -- against online gamers wearing VR devices in Greece and Germany. The rival skiers went head-to-headset in four races; the video above shows the final race. The first and last few minutes introduce the racers and the kit they're wearing, while the actual race takes place between 6:20 and 8:20.
The real skier hurtled down the World Cup ski course in Schladming, Austria, at speeds of up to 100 kph (which converts to around 60 mph). He wore a helmet that both recorded the run and showed him a heads-up display connected to a smartphone app sending data over 4G LTE, allowing him to see avatars of his virtual competitors "appear" on the real hill.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away the two gamers wore Oculus Rift headsets that showed them a virtual reality recreation of the same course. Although they stayed fixed in place, the two gamers were stationed in front of Kinect sensors and Wii Fit boards to translate their movements as if they were hurtling downhill too, matching the real and virtual courses to see who won.
And the result? Drum roll please... Despite the real-life skier winning the first race, the VR racers then got the hang of it and surged ahead in the other runs to be crowned first and second place overall.
The VR skiers were unencumbered by the other skiers milling about on the real slope -- and, standing still in their safe indoor environment, were perhaps willing to push themselves faster.
The races were broadcast live to this week's Wearable Technologies Conference in Munich. The race is the culmination of research by the European 3D Live project, assembling researchers from Italy's Collaborative Engineering, the CERTH Information Technologies Institute in Greece, Arts et Metiers ParisTech Laval in France, Germany's Sportscurve, Finland's Cyberlighting and the University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre in the UK.
The system is designed to connect the real and virtual worlds in real time, and to show its ability to connect real and virtual competitors in races or games of golf.
Now if you'll excuse us, it's time for a spot of après-ski.