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McLaren enters esports race

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McLaren has become the first Formula 1 team to enter the esports arena, announcing World’s Fastest Gamer – an intense and demanding competition for virtual racers.

World’s Fastest Gamer is a contest that will see the winner offered the best job in esports – a role with the Formula 1 team as one of its official simulator drivers.

World’s Fastest Gamer is a collaboration between global sports and technology brand McLaren, founding partner Logitech G, a global leader in gaming gear and the founder of virtual motorsport’s famous GT Academy, Darren Cox. McLaren welcomes two further partners for launch. Sports media platform GIVEMESPORT and esport racing innovator Sparco.

The format pits the best gamers in the world across multiple racing platforms as they battle each other to discover the ultimate ‘champion of champions’.

The winner will be offered a one-year contract with McLaren to work in an official capacity as a simulator driver. They will work with engineers at both at the McLaren Technology Centre and at grand prix circuits across the world to develop and improve the machinery driven in the real world by the team’s drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Billed as ‘the best job in esports’, the battle to find McLaren’s newest recruit will be viewable at every stage via a dedicated YouTube channel and McLaren’s social media channels. Six international finalists will be hand-picked by experts in both gaming and Formula 1 to join this year’s competition. A further four finalists will be selected from qualifying events online during summer 2017.

The grand finale, held at the McLaren Technology Centre in the autumn, will put all 10 hopefuls through one of the most rigorous job interviews in the world. Not only will they race against each other across a variety of different gaming titles on different platforms, they will also need to demonstrate their engineering know-how, ability to work as part of a team, and display the mental and physical strengths required for such a unique position.

McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown said:

“This is a hugely exciting opportunity – not only within the gaming industry, but for everyone at McLaren and motorsport in general. We’ve long witnessed the growth of online sports gaming, and, right now, the parallels between the real and the virtual worlds have never been closer.

“This is absolutely the right time to be creating such a unique and exciting proposition; one that connects the worlds of racing and gaming in a way that’s never been explored before.

“I’m particularly proud that McLaren, alongside our partners Logitech, Sparco and GIVEMESPORT, have staked a claim as the very first sports and technology brand to venture into the diverse and fast-growing world of esports.

World’s Fastest Gamer really aims to democratise the process of finding the best virtual racer out there. The contest isn’t limited to one platform or one game; we’re very keen not to restrict access or entry for people, but rather welcome the worldwide gaming community, whether that’s on mobile or on high-end simulator platforms.

“And the winner will genuinely be a key part of our team at McLaren. This is for real: we absolutely require additional support across our two simulator platforms, so the competition and the selection process will be rigorous, ruthless and compelling to watch.”

Ujesh Desai, Vice President and General Manager, Logitech G commented:

“Logitech G has been in the esports world since the early days, and we’re happy to now work with McLaren to lead the next mainstream esport obsession! Joining McLaren as a founding partner of the World’s Fastest Gamer brings together our combined expertise on one virtual platform.”

“Logitech G Driving Force racing wheels are engineered for extreme performance and are designed to win; we’re proud to be able to provide them for these exciting events.”

“Logitech G and McLaren share an obsession for speed, cutting-edge technology and the passion of millions of fans. We can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”

Darren Cox, IDEAS+CARS Chief Maverick Officer, added:

“Gaming and esports are growing at an astonishing rate. The football industry has recognised this, with the result that activity has exploded between the real world and the virtual world in the last 18 months. Now, World’s Fastest Gamer will provide the focus for motorsport to talk directly to the huge numbers of passionate and dedicated gamers racing online – engaging and immersing them in the real world of racing.

“In McLaren and Logitech G, we have the perfect partner with whom to deliver this project: their constant focus on technical innovation and their authoritative position within motorsport’s digital communication sphere are the obvious major benefits. However, to align with a global sports and technology brand that is renowned for producing some of the world’s greatest Formula 1 cars, road cars, and that now applies insights from both to improve lives through its technology arm, gives us the opportunity to involve and integrate gamers from across a whole range of gaming platforms and racing interests.

“Motorsport will invest heavily in esports in the coming months and years, and World’s Fastest Gamer is at the very forefront of that movement.”

Where the real world meets the virtual world…

With teams, leagues and players from the world of sport investing heavily in esports – from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, to West Ham United and the Philadelphia 76ers – virtual/reality collaborations are a fast-growing trend.

In the US, esports are already catching up with baseball and ice hockey. A recent US report found that 76% of esports enthusiasts now prefer the gaming equivalent to watching their favourite sports on TV.

esport is now one of the biggest sports in the world, with revenues now overtaking those of Hollywood. Global gaming is worth $100 billion, with year-on-year growth of almost 10%, and the esports global audience has already reached 300 million.

As viewership of motorsport is adjusting to new digital trends, and leading brands start to invest heavily in gaming instead of traditional sports sponsorship, the message for the sports industry is apparent: virtual sport offers a compelling way forward.

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Meet Aston Martin F1’s incredible moving data centre

The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team faces a great deal more IT challenges than your average enterprise as not many IT teams have to rebuild their data center 21 times each year and get it running it up in a matter of hours. Not many data centers are packed up and transported around the world by air and sea along with 45 tonnes of equipment. Not many IT technicians also have to perform a dual role as pit stop mechanic.

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The trackside garage at an F1 race is a tight working environment and a team of only two IT technicians face pressure from both the factory and trackside staff to get the trackside IT up and running very fast. Yet, despite all these pressures, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing do not have a cloud-led strategy. Instead they have chosen to keep all IT in house.

The reason for this is performance. F1 is arguably the ultimate performance sport. A walk round the team’s factory in Milton Keynes, England, makes it abundantly clear that the whole organization is hell bent on maximizing performance. 700 staff at the factory are all essentially dedicated to the creation of just two cars. The level of detail that is demanded in reaching peak performance is truly mind blowing. For example, one machine with a robotic arm that checks the dimensions of the components built at the factory is able to measure accuracy to a scale 10 times thinner than a human hair.

This quest for maximum performance, however, is hampered at every turn by the stringent rules from the F1 governing body – the FIA. Teams face restrictions on testing and technology usage in order to prevent the sport becoming an arms race. So, for example, pre-season track testing is limited to only 8 days. Furthermore, wind tunnel testing is only allowed with 60% scale models and wind tunnel-usage is balanced with the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, essentially a virtual wind tunnel. Teams that overuse one, lose time with the other.

In order to maximize performance within uniquely difficult logistical and regulatory conditions, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team has had to deploy a very powerful and agile IT estate.

According to Neil Bailey, Head of IT Infrastructure, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, their legacy trackside infrastructure was “creaking”. Before choosing hyperconverged infrastructure, their “traditional IT had reached its limits”, says Bailey. “When things reach their limits they break, just like a car,” adds Bailey.

The team’s biggest emphasis for switching to HPE’s hyperconverged infrastructure, SimpliVity, was performance. Now, with “the extra performance of SimpliVity, it means it doesn’t get to its limits,” says Bailey. HPE SimpliVity has helped reduce space, has optimized processing power and brought more agility.

One of the first and most important use cases they switched to hyperconverged infrastructure was post-processing trackside data. During a race weekend each car is typically fitted with over 100 sensors providing key data on things like tyre temperature and downforce multiple times per second. Processing this data and acting on the insights is key to driving performance improvements. With their legacy infrastructure, Bailey says they were “losing valuable track time during free practice waiting for data processing to take place.” Since switching to HPE SimpliVity, data processing has dropped from being more than 15 minutes to less than 5 minutes. Overall, the team has seen a 79% performance boost compared to the legacy architecture. This has allowed for real time race strategy analysis and has improved race strategy decision making.

Data insights helps the team stay one step ahead, as race strategy decisions are data driven. For example, real time tyre temperature data helps the team judge tyre wear and make pit stop decisions. Real time access to tyre data helped the team to victory at the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix as the Aston Martin Red Bull cars pitted ahead of the rest of the field and Daniel Ricciardo swept to a memorable victory.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is also well suited to the “hostile” trackside environment, according to Bailey. With hyperconverged infrastructure, only two racks are needed at each race of which SimpliVity only takes up about 20% of the space, thus freeing up key space in very restricted trackside garages. Furthermore, with the team limited to 60 staff at each race, only two of Bailey’s team can travel. The reduction in equipment and closer integration of HPE SimpliVity means engineers can get the trackside data center up and running quickly and allow trackside staff to start work as soon as they arrive.

Since seeing the notable performance gains from using hyperconverged infrastructure for trackside data processing, the team has also transitioned some of the factory’s IT estate over to HPE SimpliVity. This includes: Aerodynamic metrics, ERP system, SQL server, exchange server and the team’s software house, the Team Foundation Server.

As well as seeing huge performance benefits, HPE SimpliVity has significantly impacted the work patterns of Bailey’s team of just ten. According to Bailey, the biggest operational win from hyperconverged infrastructure is “freeing up engineers’ time from focusing on ‘business as usual’ to innovation.” Traditional IT took up too much of the engineers’ time monitoring systems and just keeping things running. Now with HPE SimpliVity, Bailey’s team can “give the business more and quicker” and “be more creative with how they use technology.”

Hyperconverged infrastructure has given Aston Martin Red Bull Racing the speed, scalability and agility they require without any need to turn to the cloud. It allows them to deliver more and more resources to trackside staff in an increasingly responsive manner. However, even with all these performance gains, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has been able to reduce IT costs. So, the users are happy, the finance director is happy and the IT team are happy because their jobs are easier. Hyperconvergence is clearly the right choice for the unique challenges of Formula 1 racing.

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Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line

Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.

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Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas. 

Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.

“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”

Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the  new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.

The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.

Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees. 

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