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Best 360-degree aerial drone photos, hold your breath and expect VR awe

When photos made the jump from cameras to smartphones we got plenty more ways to see amazing sites all over the world. Then came the GoPro. Then the drone. But it hasn’t stopped, now there’s immersive 360-degree virtual reality photography.

So popular has this particular brand of photography become that it now has its own competition to find the best shots. SkyPixel specialises in just that task. As such it’s created a 360-degree aerial panorama contest and has had over 1,000 entries. Yup, there are plenty of people out there with the drones, the cameras and the skills to create virtual reality photography.

From beaches and forests to cities and olympic stadiums, this competition has photos from all over the planet. The gallery above shows off some of the best images that have been submitted to the competition. While these are not in virtual reality, you can follow the links on any you like the look of to view them in 3D. If you’ve got a VR headset that would be the time to get it out.

If drone photos are your thing, after checking out this taster, then click on through to the link below for even more mind blowing aerial photography.

READ: Best drone photos ever: Stunning images taken from up high


PlayStation E3 2016 Press Conference: How to watch it and what to expect for the PS4

E3 2016 is around the corner, with the main show starting on Tuesday 14 June.

However, the press conferences run over the couple of days beforehand and many eyes on what the big two, Sony and Microsoft, have to say before the conference starts proper.

That’s why you should make sure the Sony PlayStation E3 press event is in your calendar. If you’re up and about, you might even want to catch a livestream.

We’ve received an official invite, so will report from the briefing, so here’s what we’ll be looking out for and some of things to expect.

READ: E3 2016: All the launches, games and consoles to expect


When is the Sony PlayStation E3 press conference?

Sony will host its annual E3 press conference on Monday 13 June in a new location to usual, the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall that was used by Electronic Arts in former years.

Registration for the event starts at 4.30pm, but the press conference itself doesn’t start until 6pm (PT). That’s 2am in the UK, sorry.

It traditionally runs for two hours.

Is there a Sony PlayStation E3 2016 Briefing livestream?

There will be several places where you will be able to watch the PlayStation E3 conference live. We’ll be hosting it here on Pocket-lint, with a video embed appearing closer to the launch.

It will also be streamed on

For the first time, Sony will also be screening the event live in over 80 movie theatres in the US and Canada. You can get your tickets from, but we’re not sure how many will still be available in your area.

What hardware will be launched at the Sony PlayStation E3 2016 press conference?

PlayStation Neo

This is the biggy. It has been widely rumoured that the biggest reveal at this year’s Sony event will be an all-new version of the PlayStation 4 – currently dubbed by the media, the PS4.5 or PlayStation Neo.

It is said to have an improved graphics processor, that is capable of 4K video, along with at least one HDMI 2.0 output and HDCP 2.2 DRM decoding. That means it will at the very least be a capable 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, although talk suggests it will be so much more.

According to the rumours, there will also be more RAM on-board and an octa-core CPU, with some suggesting that this would allow for some games to offer more to those who have the beefier machines.

That’ll definitely be of interest to gamers who are willing to pay for a better experience, but surely alienates the 40 million plus owners of existing PS4s? We shall see during the event.

READ: Sony PlayStation 4K: What is PS4.5, when is it coming and how will it affect VR?

PlayStation VR

Considering it’s coming out in October, there will no doubt be a big focus on PS VR this year too – at the event and on the E3 show floor.

The hardware is already established so there might be more news on alternative controllers or the like.

READ: PlayStation VR preview: Affordable virtual reality for the gamers

What games will be announced at the Sony PlayStation E3 2016 press conference?

Like the Xbox Media Briefing earlier in the day, the Sony conference will have plenty of third-party publishers showing their games on stage exclusively.

There will also be a number of key PS4 exclusives and first-party titles.

Here is a list of the games we expect (and hope) to see elaborated upon, demonstrated or announced during the PlayStation presser. We’ll also update when we hear about others.

  • Battlefield 1
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • DayZ
  • Detroit
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Skylanders Imaginators
  • The Last Guardian
  • The Last of Us 2

Samsung 4K HDR TV choices for 2016: KS9000, KS8000, KS7500 and KS7000 compared

Samsung announced a new generation of SUHD televisions at CES 2016 at the beginning of the year and now has a full selection of TVs for you to choose from, in a wide of sizes and prices.

The top-end screens use Quantum Dot displays meaning a layer of crystals over the usual LED panel that can change the blue backlight to pure white for a full spectrum of colour options. All that means higher brightness, better colours, higher dynamic range and truer blacks. All this and it can be manufactured far cheaper than OLED.

This year the Samsung TVs leading the way are the KS9000, KS8000, KS7500 and KS7000. Here’s what you need to know about each.


Samsung KS9000 9 Series Curved SUHD Quantum Dot TV

At the top of the Samsung TV range is the 9 Series, which is almost identical to the 8 Series except the 9 is curved and the 8 is flat.

The 9 Series comes in 49-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch sizes and pack 4K UHD displays, HDR 1000 and, of course, a Quantum Dot 10-bit display. This offer 64 times the colour of LCD with 1 billion in total, SUHD remastering for upscaling, and Ultra Black Technology for clearly defined dark images plus auto dimming and an auto enhancer for depth. They also feature a moth eye to disperse reflections meaning minimal glare, for a better overall picture.

There’s Samsung Smart Hub for plenty of apps, easy smartphone control and home media access, plus big screen gaming thanks to built-in PlayStation Now for PS3 games. This sits in a refresh UI that gives quicker access to content and you’ll be rewarded with the likes of Ultra HD Netflix and Amazon Video.

The 9 Series has a Samsung PQI rating of 2400. This is a number made up by Samsung to give an overall image quality rating based on resolution, brightness, colour, contrast, motion, noise reduction and immersion.

Compared to previous years, these TVs are not only brighter, but more power efficient, and also have improved internal speakers, with the 9 series offering 4.1 channel speakers.

The Samsung KS9000 is available now and starts at £2,099 for the 55-inch model, £2,899 for the 65-inch model. We can’t find the 49-inch model available anywhere, so the price remains a mystery.


KS8000 8 Series Flat SUHD Quantum Dot TV

Like the KS9000, the 8 Series sits at the top of Samsung’s range, but offers a flat panel, rather than the curved of the 9 Series. 

However, there’s a crossover in the technology offered, with a 4K UHD panel offering Samsung’s HDR 1000, for some cracking visuals. It’s a 10-bit panel, again offering Quantum Dot technology meaning a wider range of colours, loads of brightness and plenty of detail. Although it offers the same technologies as the KS9000, the 8000 comes with a performance rating of 2300 PQI.

The KS8000 comes in 49, 55 and 65-inch sizes, with a slick minimalist bezel and a central stand. The idea of these stands is to give a floating look to the TV, as if the panel just hangs in the air. The 8000, like the other TVs on this list offer “360” design, so they look clean and attractive from the back too. It also offers 4.1 channel audio.

Like the other TVs on the list, it comes with a refreshed UI over 2015 models, meaning easy access to Smart functions to easily access content you might want, like 4K Netflix.

The Samsung KS8000 is also out now and starts at £1,499 for the 49-inch model, £1,899 for the 55, and £2,699 for the 65, so you get a lot of TV for your money.


Samsung KS7500 Curved SUHD Quantum Dot TV 

The 7 Series, which also offers curved and flat options, comes in more sizes than the top end TVs with 65-inch, 55-inch, 49-inch and 43-inch variants.

Everything else about the televisions’ specs are nearly identical with 4K UHD, HDR 1000, SUHD remastering, Ultra Black Technology and Smart Hub and the moth eye filter. However the Samsung PQI rating is 2200 for this range, which mostly comes down to a slightly different dimming system – the 8 and 9 Series offer Supreme UHD Dimming, whereas the 7 settles for UHD Dimming.

It also takes a step down in audio, offering 2.1 channel system for the internal speakers with 40W RMS compared to 60W for the 8 and 9 Series.

One thing to note on the design is that the feet are very wide on the 7 series, so you’ll need a wide stand, or have to wall mount it.

The Samsung KS7500 is available now, priced at £1,399 for the 49-inch model, and £1,699 for the 55, we can’t find prices for the other sizes.


Samsung KS7000 Flat 7 Series SUHD Quantum Dot TV

Offering the flat version of the 7500 is the KS7000. This flat panel 4K UHD TV is a sub-premium alternative to the KS8000, offering many of the same technologies and specs, but in a slightly lower tier package. It comes in 49, 55 and 60-inch sizes.

Importantly this is still a 4K TV and offers Samsung’s HDR 1000, all the upscaling technologies and the moth eye filter, although the KS7000 carries a performance rating of 2100 PQI according to Samsung’s own rating system. That’s likely to be because it believes that curved is a slightly better performer, hence the higher rating on the 7500, and a minor enhancements on the 8 and 9 Series to improve performance at the top level.

However, the KS7000 offers a complete smart TV package with Samsung’s latest Tizen UI for easy access no matter what your source, like 4K HDR Netflix for example, so it’s skilled in all areas. 

Again, like the KS7500 the design sees the feet near the edges, so you’ll need a wide stand, unless you’re going to wall mount this TV.

The Samsung KS7000 can be bought now for £1,299 for the 49-inch model, £1,499 for the 55, £1,799 for the 60 inch. 


SLR camera quality photos on your smartphone, the metalens is coming

Strapping a massive lens case attachment to your smartphone still won’t have you snapping on the level of an SLR, but that soon may not be an issue. Something called a metalens promises to enhance smaller cameras with staggering quality.

The metalens has been developed by Harvard University scientists to change the way light is angled into a camera sensor. This new lens is the size of a grain of sand yet can compete with the expansive and weighty lens of an SLR, apparently.

At the moment optics, which control light entering a camera, need to be made to perfection in order to angle light correctly. This new discovering ditches the curved glass lens in favour of a 2mm construction from quartz and a tiny titanium oxide array.

So what’s the catch? The lens is still in early stage testing where not all of the colour spectrum can be manipulated, but that’s planned next. The key here is these beat a traditional lens in resolving details and are nearly as efficient, plus they’re potentially way cheaper to produce.

So once these metalenses are perfected we should already have full frame sensors in phones, we hope, meaning there’ll be nothing stopping us capturing SLR quality photos on our smartphones.

READ: Turn your GoPro into a 3D camera using this £35 Vitrima lens case


Analysts predict the end of the smartphone boom

Gartner’s latest research into the state of the mobile industry is a dire warning to all phone manufacturers. The financial analysis firm believes that the growth in smartphone sales will fall to a single digit, half the rate it was in 2015. It’s hard to think that people buying 1.5 billion devices in a calendar year is a bad thing, but for companies who make profit on scale, it’s a nightmare. Last year, LG made just 1.2 cents in profit for every phone it sold, and you need to sell a lot of phones at that cost before you can consider yourself a big deal.

The issue here is the same that it’s always been, which is that almost everyone in the world who can afford a smartphone already owns one. For years, China was held up as a beacon of hope for companies struggling to wring more profits out of the US and Europe. With its enormous population and emerging middle class, a desire for smartphones would be impossible to satisfy, or at least that was the theory. By 2015, that country had become saturated with devices, helped by local players Huawei and Xiaomi selling devices almost at cost.

Another problem is that most people are still feeling the pinch of the various financial crises that have rocked the world since 2001. People in the west are pulling out of the 24-month upgrade cycle, preferring to hold on to their perfectly working devices for up to 30 months at a time. After all, it’s not as if the Galaxy S5 magically turns into a piece of garbage 730 days after you buy it.

But Gartner throws some shade at smartphone manufacturers themselves, saying they’re not doing enough to woo customers into buying new devices. As the technology updates have “become incremental, rather than exponential,” there’s little reason to rush out on launch day to grab the latest handset. Smartphones are something that you replace when they wear out, not something desirable in themselves.

The firm says that India is the next great hope for smartphone companies to make a profit, but even now it may be too late. The country still buys feature phones more than smartphones, and the average selling price for a device is $120. That means that only devices that come in under that price is going to make a profit, although Google’s Android One initiative may eventually prove its worth here. But local players like Micromax are mounting a stern defense, teaming up with Cyanogen to appeal to more affluent customers.

Buried at the end of the report is a note of optimism, saying that companies will still try to enter the “complex and competitive” phone business. But nestled alongside is the warning that some of the established players will “exit the market.” It mentions no names, but we can already think of one company that’s struggling to stay afloat after being undermined by ultra-budget Chinese competition.

Gartner ends by saying that at least one “nontraditional phone maker” could become a top five player in China by 2018. With the cost of low-end smartphones plummeting and the market becoming saturated, it’s not unreasonable to see that. For instance, a giant like LeEco or Tencent could offer almost free handsets much like Amazon does with its Fire tablets: as a trojan horse to hook you in to its other businesses.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Gartner


Swarm brings back Foursquare’s real-world perks

Foursquare is continuing its quest to bring back all the things you liked from its old check-in app. Swarm now offers real-life perks depending on where and how often you check in. You’ll get a discount if you swing by certain stores, for instance, or enter to win a prize if you complete a challenge across multiple shops. Only some locations will have these benefits, but Foursquare is promising “hundreds” of prizes ranging from cruises to drones to VIP concert tickets.

The first challenge is already underway, and it’s a big one: you can win a $10,000 vacation to anywhere you want if you check into three “summertime locations” (think beaches or movie theaters) no later than June 19th.

It’s a relatively small move, but it could do a lot to help Foursquare draw in users who might have drifted away. While it’s fun to get bragging rights for a mayorship, part of the allure of the original Foursquare app was getting that discount at the coffee shop you visit every day. If Swarm offers enough perks in the right places, you’ll have a good incentive to keep using the app regardless of how competitive your friends might be.

Source: App Store, Google Play


Tiny ‘metalens’ could bring SLR camera quality to your phone

Your smartphone’s camera quality is limited for a number of reasons (sensor size, for example), but one of the biggest factors is optics: you need a lot of glass to deliver the pin-sharp photos of a DSLR or mirrorless camera. That’s where Harvard researchers might help. They’ve developed a “metalens” that substitutes the usual glass with quartz plates full of microscopic titanium oxide structures, whose patterns guide light toward the camera sensor. The technology not only leads to a much smaller lens (it’s just 0.08 inches across in testing), but focus that beats even the better lenses you find in stores — it can resolve details 400 nanometers wide, or smaller than a wavelength of light.

It’s much more affordable, too, since you don’t need carefully polished, difficult-to-manufacture glass. You could make the metalenses in the same factories that produce semiconductors.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll be shooting gallery-worthy photos with your phone in the near future. While this is a breakthrough in using the technology for visible spectrum light, Popular Science says that the metalenses used in testing were only designed to refract light in specific colors. You’d clearly need a much wider color gamut for this to work. Still, it’s a start. The scientists see a day when your phone camera can take professional-grade photos, and where dedicated cameras don’t need big, heavy lenses to achieve top-notch results.

Via: Popular Science

Source: Harvard, Science


‘World of Final Fantasy’ coming to PS4 and Vita this October

World of Final Fantasy, the upcoming RPG from Square Enix, is coming to PlayStation 4 and Vita this October. The worldwide releases are almost simultaneous: October 25th in North America, October 27th in Japan and October 28th in Europe.

If you’re unaware of what World of Final Fantasy is, or why Cloud Strife looks so damn cute in the image above, it’s essentially a chibi-fied take on the Final Fantasy games. It’s being pitched at both long-term fans of the series and youngsters, blending kid-friendly visuals and storytelling with classic Final Fantasy combat.

World of Final Fantasy is set in Grimoire, a mysterious world that has sucked in both the new protagonists and various characters and creatures from the series. Visually, everything is cute and approachable, and the game feels much closer to the Final Fantasy titles of old than new. If you’re a Final Fantasy fan, it sounds like there’s a lot to pique your interest here. But then again, with a release date less than a month after Final Fantasy XV, you might already have your hands full.

Source: PlayStation


The UK gets its first driverless car insurer

As cars have gained more assistive driving features, questions have been raised over how driverless vehicles will be insured. If someone has an accident while being piloted by an autonomous car, is the driver or the car itself to blame?

While governments, car makers and search giants attempt to figure that out, specialist UK insurer Adrian Flux has today launched what is believed to be one of the world’s first dedicated driverless vehicle policies. It’s done so to allow drivers to place more faith in assistive controls and force policymakers to implement changes around how and when driverless cars could be held liable.

The insurance company’s policy is basically a standard agreement with four additional areas of coverage for autonomous vehicles. The first covers owners if they are involved in an incident that is the result of an update or security patch not being applied with 24 hours of it becoming available, while another will indemnify a policyholder if those systems then fail altogether. Should a car fail to relinquish control in the event of a manual override or the car gets hacked, Adrian Flux says it will cover that too.

Right now, the policy is designed for people who already utilize driverless features in their existing car, things like automatic braking or assistive lane changing. The company also notes that it would also cover drivers utilising Autopilot in the Tesla Model 3.

Last month, the UK government announced the new Modern Transport Bill during the Queen’s Speech. Ministers said that while a Code of Practice already exists for the public testing of autonomous cars, new laws must be passed to help integrate driverless cars on public roads. This includes figuring out how they are insured and will cover passing liability from the driver to the car itself (and possibly the manufacturer).

US regulators already consider Google’s self-driving car to be its own driver, even if it has a human passenger. This small win could help the search giant, and many other car companies, push through red tape that is currently slowing down the roll out of autonomous vehicles. Volvo is hopeful: it says that by 2020, “no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”

Adrian Flux accepts that as the UK’s autonomous landscape shifts, it will have to amend its policies to keep pace. But it’s not the only company working in this space. Global insurer AXA has already partnered with two of the UK government’s three self-driving car projects to understand the unique challenges faced by driverless cars and their owners and adapt existing models to fit them.

While we’ll likely see cheaper premiums for people who drive autonomous cars, there are still a number of boxes left to tick. Adrian Flux insists its policy will “help drivers use the autonomous technology in their cars with more peace of mind and protection,” but the extra publicity won’t hurt either.

Via: Computer Weekly

Source: Adrian Flux


Online gaming was his gateway to professional racing

When Nicolas Hamilton was born, two months premature, his family was told he would never walk. He had a form of cerebral palsy that would cause a constant stiffness in the lower half of his body. By the age of 11 he was restricted to a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to become a race car driver. He had direct exposure to a Formula One world champion in the family: His elder half brother, Lewis Hamilton, went from casual karting on the weekends to winning three F1 championships.
Over the years, he fought to regain motion in his legs. The odds of his ever driving a race car were stacked against him. But that started to change when he encountered the world of simulated racing. Unbeknownst to him, spending hours in the virtual world was laying the foundation for his professional career. He stayed and succeeded in the online world for years, moving through the cycles of sim-racing championships, before he got behind the wheel of a real car. He made his race debut in 2011 with Britain’s Renault Clio Cup and moved on to the European Touring Car Cup two years later. Most recently, he became the first driver with a disability to compete in the British Touring Car Championship.

Hamilton’s transition from a wheelchair to a race car has inspired many. While he continues to push past his physical limitations, he has also been working behind the scenes as an adviser for Project CARS since 2012. The powerful racing simulator, from London-based Slightly Mad Studios, was built on an unconventional crowdfunding model, and it got rave reviews for its handling of the cars, the accuracy of its racetrack ambience and its elaborate control options. A year after its much-anticipated launch, the independent developer recently released a Game of the Year edition, with new cars and circuits, to keep the hype alive.

For the sequel to Project CARS, which is currently in the making, the studio continues to work with Hamilton to build an authentic racing experience. I gave Hamilton and Stephen Viljoen, the game director at Slightly Mad Studios, a call to find out more about their ongoing collaboration and the ways in which simulated racing can prep a driver for the real circuits.

When did you first get interested in simulated racing?

Nicolas Hamilton: I have to say 2007-ish is when I got actively into it. GTR was the first game I tried in terms of simulation. It was cool, and it just developed from there. When I looked around on the internet, I found that there were championships for online gaming, and I got heavily into it. I decided online sim gaming could be something I could do for fun and learn about the sport at the same time.

In a recent Project CARS video, as you recap your journey beyond the sim world, you say, “Us being Hamiltons, we’re all or nothing.” What was it like growing up? How closely did you follow your brother’s motorsport career?

Hamilton: I grew up with a condition, but I was around motorsport constantly. There’s eight years between Lewis and myself. When I was growing up, he was getting into his motorsport career. It started out as a hobby at first; we went kart racing every weekend. But the better Lewis did and the more serious he got, the more serious the whole family got about it. As a family, when you’re dedicated to motorsport, you eat, sleep and breathe the career. With us, we are all or nothing to the point that when we do something, we do it to the best or don’t do it at all. That’s [the approach] I’ve had throughout with my condition. If I’m going to try to achieve something, regardless of how tough it might and the obstacles I face, I grit my teeth and go for it or I don’t do it at all. It’s about reaching the goals you’ve set with the opportunities you’ve been given.

How did online gaming become a gateway for professional racing? At what point did you decide to move from the virtual world to the real races?

Hamilton: It wasn’t really my decision. [At one point] my brother turned around and said, “You’re pretty good online — why don’t you try it for real?” For me it was a big shock, because on the sim side I wasn’t using pedals; I was always using buttons on a steering wheel because of my condition. I didn’t know what was possible, whether it would be easy to make a transition. The biggest [concern] was the use of my legs. It was the hardest thing to overcome.

India F1 GP Auto Racing

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton (left) with brother Nicolas (right). Photo credit: Mark Baker, AP.

Tell me about your first experience driving a car on a real circuit.

Hamilton: The first car I drove was a BMW M3. I drove it around a circuit close to my house. We just wanted to go and have some fun and didn’t think it was going to be competitive in terms of lap times. But I ended up being faster than the instructors that day. It was a big shock for everybody. My dad was pretty surprised that I could do it for real. Then, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, we went back a couple of weeks later to see if it was just as good as before, which it was. It turned into something more from there. We made the decision to get me into racing for real and think of a championship to go into. We chose the [Renault] Clio Cup.

What was your biggest challenge at the time?

Hamilton: I only had a couple of days’ practice in the car before my first race. I was very inexperienced. There were a lot of things I had to overcome in my head. It was very daunting to start with — I felt very uncomfortable being in that position, because I felt like I wasn’t prepared enough for a race where I was [competing] with people who had been racing for 10 or 15 years. It was very nerve-racking. But once [I started driving], my nerves disappeared and it was all about learning on each lap. I focused on improving and making sure I kept pushing forward.

What kinds of modifications were made to the car you drove?

Hamilton: If I was going to race, I wanted to make sure the car wasn’t heavily adapted. I didn’t want to use hand controls; I wanted to use my legs. When I drove a car for real, I had to make sure I could accelerate and brake with no issues. So we changed the pedals in the car to make it easier to accommodate my legs. In a standard car, there are clutch, brake and accelerator pedals. The first thing we did was we took the clutch out and put it on the back of the steering wheel, so I had a little paddle instead of the [foot] pedal. We also adapted the accelerator and brake to make it wider so I had more area to put my feet between speeding and breaking. We raised the seat up to make sure I could see, and that was pretty much it. It was minimal, and that’s what I wanted.

You’ve been involved with Project CARS for a while. How did the collaboration with Slightly Mad Studios come about?

Hamilton: I’ve always wanted to be involved in the development of games. I had this idea for a game where you start with go-karts and move through the world of motorsport. At the time, around 2012, there wasn’t a game out there where you could start at the beginner level and work your way through. I called someone I knew in the gaming industry and they said, “Have you heard of Project CARS?” I hadn’t. It was pretty much everything I had in terms of a concept. I got an introduction, they agreed to get me on board and I’ve been working with Slightly Mad Studios as a handling consultant since November that year.

Stephen Viljoen: Nic first got into simulation racing with one of our previous simulators, so it’s an interesting full circle that he’s now on board and working with us. His role is that of a physics adviser, if you will. We have people like him on board to help fine-tune games and make the racing experience as authentic as possible. On a very basic level, when we’re ready for feedback, we put a car in the simulation. Nic takes it out and drives it and give us feedback on how the tire felt and how the handling felt, literally as if he were driving a real car. We go back, iterate and make tweaks until he says the car is pretty much at the place where the real car would be. He’s also invaluable in nailing the experience of being a motorsport driver. There’s so much to it when you’re not on track — how things work with contracts and promotions and sponsorships. It’s information that we find very useful and try to implement as far as possible into the design of the game. To simulate what it’s like to be a motorsport driver, you have to simulate what it’s like in its full spectrum.

Does the immersive world of sim racing prepare drivers for the real world?

Viljoen: Some drivers that we’ve worked with have claimed that it has helped them improve their position in the race. For example, for the Le Mans 24-hour race, we have the simulated track and the entire light cycle in Project CARS. So you can choose to race on, say, 26th June 2016 at 8 AM and our meteorological simulation will put the sun in the exact place where it will be at that time. So you can practice how it will affect your vision. [German racer] René Rast said when he did the real race, he knew exactly how the sun was going to rise, and being prepared for that helped him. Then we have drivers who feel that their car is so accurately simulated that they can actually use it to practice for a race offline so when they get into the real car they have that familiarity.

With other sports like golf and tennis, you can pick up the clubs or a racket and go practice. With motorsports, it’s very expensive to go practice, unless you’re in the top level of the sport and have a team that can pay for you to do it. A proper motor simulation can add a lot to a driver’s practice time, especially during off-season, when you can’t get access to a track. There’s no doubt that it helps.

“Originally this was my dream, and it was about me and having a goal for myself, but then I started to realize how many people I could inspire and reach out to. Now I carry them with me. It’s not just about me anymore.” — Nicolas Hamilton

Hamilton: I think gaming taught me all the basics I needed to know. In the sim world, I learned how to push myself to qualify and make changes to the car, but when it comes to actually preparing a [real] car, warming up the tires, the brakes and the feeling you get when you drive is completely different. You start to see how the temperatures of the circuit really affect the car in different ways. It’s not until you get to a circuit and start driving for real that you learn more than what the game can give you.

Despite the differences, do you believe your interest and success in online gaming influenced your professional career?

Hamilton: If it wasn’t for computer games, consoles and gadgets, I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. I started with PC games and consoles like Playstation 1 and 2 and eventually got the Xbox. My dad always said that I wouldn’t make a career out of playing games. He wanted me to focus on business or read a book. But I followed what I wanted to do, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for playing games, then I wouldn’t have my career. I don’t know if I’m one of the lucky ones or a lot of people do this, but for me it’s all about following what you want to do. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but it means you have to try harder. The number of times I’ve been knocked down and had to get up is crazy.

Nicolas Hamilton (center) at Slightly Mad Studios with creative director Andy Tudor (left) and CEO Ian Bell (right).

What is it about racing that keeps you going?

Hamilton: I always wanted to race and pretty much always got turned down. My dad didn’t want me to do it. He didn’t think it would be possible with my legs. And since it’s seen as a dangerous sport, he didn’t want it to be dangerous for me. Now, the fact that I can do it makes me want to do it even more. Motorsport has been my life; it’s all I know. I wouldn’t say it’s the adrenaline, but the desire to do it as best as possible. It’s the desire of wanting to stand on top of the podium. It’s what makes me feel good. Originally this was my dream, and it was about me and having a goal for myself, but then I started to realize how many people I could inspire and reach out to. Now I carry them with me. It’s not just about me anymore.

Outside of your motorsport career, do you still stay involved in the development of Project CARS?

Hamilton: I have my career and I’m enjoying my racing, but I’m also knuckle-down at Slightly Mad [Studios] creating the second Project Cars right now. I’ve always wanted to work in the game industry regardless of racing or not. I’m sort of living the dream right now.

What can be expected from the simulated sequel?

Viljoen: There will be some significant changes. We’ll be taking you to new surfaces through rally and ice racing and the various aspects that go into simulating the systems and how you get to the championship. We’ll have a lot of new cars, even brands that we couldn’t have before. Now that we’re on the map, people recognize us. They’re more willing to come to the table and agree on prices that we can actually afford to pay for some of these brands.

We’ll have multiplayer enhancements and more support for VR. We’ll be polishing features for more authentic experiences. For instance, with the first Project CARS we had the ability to do a 24-hour light-cycle simulation; now we will also be doing season simulations. You’ll see snow in the winter or different leaf colors for autumn and it will dynamically change so you can set it to go through the seasons. It has such an impact on racing. For freezing temperatures on the racetrack, you want visual cues to know the effects it has on the car. Same with rainfall: It happens in various stages, so we’ll now have it sunny in one part but there might be a rain cloud a few corners away. It will have realistic puddles and how they affect the handling of the car. And it won’t be pre-generated art; it will be simulated to the scenes. The slope of the track will determine where the puddles fall. This is all in addition to it sounding and looking better.

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