Virtual Spectator was instrumental in bringing realtime 3d graphics to live television. The America’s Cup was the first example of this technology - each yacht had an onboard GPS unit with a live feed to an onshore base station (cutting-edge stuff at the time). The GPS stream was processed in realtime and converted to a live 3D visualisation that directors could work with to provide virtual TV shots, overlaid with useful information such as VMG (velocity made good), relative position with respect to the next mark in the course, wind speed and wind shadowing, and so on. This allowed the America’s Cup TV crew to present races to the public in a way that would not have been possible with conventional means, and was considered revolutionary at the time.
I joined Virtual Spectator about 6 months before the 2002-2003 Louis Vuitton Cup, along with several others. We had to design and implement from scratch a software client to view the racing action in realtime over the internet within that timeframe, along with the backend systems to distribute the data stream to thousands of clients in realtime (there was no such thing as Amazon Web Services at the time!) There were many sleepless nights during that 6 month window, but we delivered a working product on time (just barely). After some initial teething issues with backend scalability, the VS America’s Cup client worked amazingly well and allowed yachtees to follow the racing action on their computer, complementing the live TV feed and allowing them to perform their own analysis.
World Rally Championship
We also provided graphics for the World Rally Championship. Every car had an onboard GPS unit, and data was collected from them as they arrived back at the service park for repairs and maintenance. From there it was a mad dash to analyze the data and create compelling snippets of 3d animation that compared the performance of leading drivers or highlighted an interesting mishap, helping illustrate the ‘story’ of the day’s events. We produced things such as flyovers and drilldowns, also educational pieces - explaining visually how a turbo works, talking about heat dissipation, the mousse compound in tyres, and so on.
Volvo Ocean Race
The final product I worked on at Virtual Spectator was a downloadable client for the Volvo Ocean Race, in which competitors sail right around the world over the course of several months. We created another software client so that the public could follow the progress of their team, and see the state of the race at a glance as events unfolded. Users could rewind and replay the racing action from any point in time, and a detailed set of telemetry was available for each team in the race. The client also delivered news updates and video news segments that helped bring life and interest to the racing action.