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MarineVerse - The Story So Far

by Marc Ablett 9 Dec 2021 06:05 GMT
Busy bottom mark rounding in a WASZP multiplayer race © MarineVerse

So, you walk into a party, no one has a clue about sailing, you try and explain it, you try to sell the essence of the sport and why you love it, why it is your passion, often you tend to run into a lot of blank faces or underwhelming responses.

Do they get it? Probably not, so what if you could show them, without having to wait for a day with perfect conditions, we all know they can be few and far between. Well, you can now immediately take someone into the ideal sailing experience, the perfect gateway to bridge the gap between talking about sailing and doing it.

Virtual Reality has seemed like a distant world, out of the reach of the mainstream public. But, VR has never been more accessible. With the explosion in technology, you can now transport someone from the real world into an immersive artificial world. As a VR user, you can be transported anywhere in the world. Through the advent of high-quality 360-degree cameras, artificial worlds and meeting places are created. Think about a place where you can choose the weather to blow 12-15knots constantly, and you stay warm and dry. That sounds like a dream, right?

Check out fully immersive VR environments

Well, that dream is now a reality, a Virtual Reality and connecting it with sailing seems like the perfect marriage, introducing new people to the sport in a safe, controlled manner, in a community that can meet anywhere in the world at the same time. What if you could pull an Oculus Quest headset out, give it to your non-sailing friend and walk them through the sport on every level, from dinghy sailing, to offshore yacht racing, to the extreme section of the sport on the foiling WASZP class.

At $US299 the Oculus Quest 2 headset provides incredible value! Virtual Reality has been thrown into the mainstream spotlight of late, with social media and tech giant Facebook showing they are all in on the technology. Re-branding themselves as Meta, with the sole purpose of ushering its user base towards the Metaverse. What is the Metaverse? For the big players like Facebook and Apple, the term Metaverse is a mixed reality phenomenon to give users an immersive online experience. The end game for this is to seamlessly move between the VR Metaverse and the natural world with non-obtrusive equipment. This will enable companies to have board meetings with people all over the world in face to face, immersive settings. The technology is already there for friends with VR headsets to go to comedy shows together or even sit courtside live at an NBA Game.

I am keen to show examples of this. Facebook's example of Metaverse (meetings) and also the NBA courtside experience (here are 2 decent videos)

Connect with friends around the world in high quality fully immersive settings

Workrooms explained

So, what does all this mean for sailing? Well, before the Meta hit the mainstream, there was Marineverse. Marineverse, it's flagship VR product Marineverse Cup is ready for everyone to jump into the Metaverse. The company was formed in 2016 and has come a long way from its infancy and the goal of creating a compelling introduction to sailing using Google Cardboard. Since then, the equipment has been enhanced, but Marineverse has been there at every step of the journey. Early in the piece they introduced the dinghy and the yacht. With tech advancements in head and hand tracking, the immersive experience started to take shape. You could plug the headset into a TV and walk someone through how to sail. You use the head tracking to move your weight and the hand tracking to grab the tiller and mainsheet to sail the boat as if you were on the water for real. This is a huge breakthrough and has endless opportunities for clubs, associations and federations to help grow the sport digitally. So much so that in an early iteration of the game, Marineverse claimed an Education Award from HTC Vive, Marineverse provided an immersive and interactive learning experience with the pilot rolled out during some US Sailing and Australian Sailing events.

Facebook - Meta Explained

This was still early days in the concept, with a massive leap in graphics capability and portability as the headsets went wireless. This meant you could take sailing anywhere. Many activations occurred, most notably during the Volvo Race stopover in Melbourne for 2017/18 and many activations with Australian and US Sailing (director of education, testimonial) governing bodies. The game developers have always been open for feedback, with the game users openly encouraged to provide their thoughts. Marineverse continues to move with them as headsets improve, continually updating the app since 2016. The game has been heavily tested by all demographics and world-class sailors and people who have never set foot on a boat.

In late 2019 and subsequently into 2020, things began to accelerate. Marineverse Cup was born, which was the first iteration of racing on the platform, and Marksetbot, another like-minded company looking to break the tech barrier and solve problems for the sport, came on board as a partner. Covid then hit, and the worlds most popular one-design foiling dinghy was exploring its VR strategy. The synergy was perfect with both companies based in Melbourne Australia. It provided the massive opportunity as the world locked down.

Most of 2020 was spent developing the physics of the WASZP and foiling within Virtual Reality. The comments when you put a foiling sailor into the game on the WASZP are incredible, it feels so lifelike and is ground-breaking in a sense that in-line with WASZPs values of being the most accessible foiling dinghy on the market, it just got more accessible. Things like working with apparent wind and the importance of heel angle when foiling have all played their part in making this a real life experience.

Next came multiplayer development, in a time when community connections have never been so essential, the ability to race up to 8 of your friends from all over the globe at the same time, as well as speak to them through the headset microphones is the next exciting chapter and the first big step into the Metaverse. Events have been conducted and Marineverse has the absolute potential to be sailing number 1 genuine eSports platform in the future.

In 2021, it has all been about user experience. The game has taken on a new look, you are now placed into a sailing club and the tutorials have been enhanced so it is a seamless journey for both active sailors and non-sailors to move through the game at their appropriate level. This falls in line with Marineverse's original goal of creating a compelling introduction to sailing experience and its core mission of being the world's largest and accessible sailing club.

Once you move through the sailing club and you have an option to link up with friends via multiplayer. You click through, and suddenly you are in a clubhouse with all your friends, you can be in Australia, and your friend could be in the USA, and you are in the same room talking about sailing, life, business and then moving through to go for a race on a dinghy, yacht or the foiling WASZP. Marineverse provides opportunities for new sailors to connect with experienced sailors in a friendly environment.

Where does this leave us? The game has always been in development and there is a genuine commitment to keeping developing and making the game better well into the future. All the groundwork to make the most of the shift to this Metaverse is complete. It is now about refining that experience. So, what applications does Marineverse hope to have in the future?

  • A virtual sailing school that is both a remote learning tool but also something clubs and federations can use alongside their programs
  • A gateway to engage more non-sailors to the sport, an initial step that has no barriers
  • A racing refinement tool, the WASZP is the perfect example of a boat where VR can really flatten the learning curve for foiling and then take you forward with the refinement of technique for racing.
  • A simulator that can give people sailing experiences they could only dream of imagine sailing an F50 (SailGP) or AC75 (Americas Cup) from your living room
  • 360 video tutorial technology, as we move further to the future and 360 camera technology continues to improve, we can take you into the driver's seat of any boat in the world
  • A global meeting place for sailors, imagine now conducting the monthly meeting or AGM using the Marineverse Clubhouse. This is where Facebook is taking the world, Marineverse is ready to take up the challenge for sailing.
  • Advanced coaching in the Metaverse, watch 360-degree videos, then go sailing in Virtual Reality, debrief in the clubhouse all in a single application.
Put your headset on and jump onboard the 49er! The sky is the limit with integrated features such as 360 video and gameplay

So what does it cost to get involved in the VR world? Well, probably a lot less than you think. The Oculus Quest 2, the dominant headset backed and owned by Meta (Facebook), is only $US299. You then buy the game for $US19 and you are on! You can also purchase an optional Sailing Pass for $13 per month or $99 per year, to get access to more boats and Pro features! You can buy in at an introductory level for under $20 and then become a member of the world's largest sailing club for just $13 a month for added perks.

Marineverse is coming! Stay tuned as there is something very exciting happening in early 2022 that we can not disclose yet.

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