Gran Turismo 6 GPS Visualizer Details:
- Video game inspired option for accurate data logging on all tracks included in GT6
- Flash drive collects data from CAN-Gateway ECU in-car before being exported as game replay
- Developed by Toyota, Polyphony Digital and Denso
- Applicable for Scion FR-S and Toyota 86
Imagine racing a motorsports hero like Sebastian Vettel, Jimmie Johnson, Daigo Saito or Ken Block from your couch and controller. You could follow their exact lines, note their braking marks and precisely mimic their entrance speeds at one of many world-renowned circuits. We’re not talking about some AI version of a pro built to drive realistically, but the real-time actions of a driver copied over into a video game shortly after they pulled off the track, engine still hot. Could you keep up or even come close? To sweeten the deal you have access to the pro’s data logger displayed in replay, a rewind feature in game and the choice of over 1,100 notable cars including one bad ‘Benz AMG GT Vision Concept – all to lessen the gap in talent. That is the future of racing simulators; a future that the latest Gran Turismo 6 (GT6) made possible.
Collecting items like speed, telemetry, gear, rpm and lap time on any given portion of asphalt via a data logger is routine practice for frequent track dayers. It is the only way to benchmark vehicle performance or personal skill level with undisputable hard numbers. But outside of those bent on getting faster, data logging is a tool lost on many of us – possibly because it is deemed too number intensive to be fun. Toyota in conjunction with the gearheads of GT6 broke ground on a much more entertaining and insightful way to log one’s track experience. It is called GPS Visualization technology and it is awesome – not to be confused with GT6’s GPS Course Maker.
Toyota/Scion and Sony Computer Entertainment America along with GT6 development members invited us to a first-hand test of the GPS Visualizer at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA. This event was not only the first showing of the GPS Visualizer feature but also of the full version of the massive GT6 racing simulator, to be released on December 6, 2013.
Four Scion FR-Ss including one “10 Series” SE model, two stockers and a Toyota Pro celebrity variant were on hand for the demonstration at the famously “broken-in” Streets of Willow course – not to be confused with the larger Big Willow. Each invited member of the media was to drive a handful of laps with a Fastlane Racing School instructor and also ride along with the likes of drift pros Ken Gushi (a self-proclaimed hardcore Gran Tursimo series player) or Dai Yoshihara. Those laps were then recorded and exported to a station of PlayStation 3 consoles spinning the full build of GT6 for our gaming pleasure.
Also present to explain the game and technology was forward-thinker Tetsuya Tada, Scion FR-S/Toyota 86 chief engineer and Taku Imasaki, North American producer of Gran Turismo. Each presented the ins and outs of what we were soon to test both in car and while playing the game. Note that GT6 has almost 1,200 accurately rendered cars and 100 racetracks including the bruised and battered local fun zone known as Streets of Willow. The FR-S and 86 though are the only vehicles at the moment that take advantage of the GPS Visualizer feature – one of many features that make the GT6 online community bigger and better than ever before.
The tuner favorite FR-S is at the heart of the GPS Visualization project thanks to Tetsuya Tada, its chief engineer. “In 2007-2008, there was a big concern in the automotive industry where people were starting to lose interest in cars in general, especially young people. They were all hooked on smart phones and games,” said Tada-san via a Japanese translator. “There was a big worry within Toyota about how to get that audience back. Looking at the surge of the iPhone, we thought about how to make a sports car that brings those guys back. So instead of competing with smart phones and games, we worked together. Bigger car, bigger horsepower, bigger engine wasn’t interesting to young people anymore. That is when I started thinking about the CAN-Gateway ECU idea but Toyota execs did not agree so I shared the idea with Kazunori Yamauchi [Polyphony Digital CEO] and he got it right away. CAN-Gateway ECU development took longer than expected and missed the car’s launch but now for the first time at this event we are able to show you how it works. For me, this is a celebration where my vision is realized.”
Taking a Toyota platform built around the concept of being fun to drive instead of wide open fast and expensive, work began. The end result is an easy to use data logger that replays your actual racetrack laps on screen with the ability to digitally race yourself or whoever else uploads to the hub. The tech, developed by Toyota and Denso, is easily adaptable to other manufacturers in the future as well.
Kazunori Yamauchi, Polyphony Digital CEO and Gran Turismo 6 creator, “The GPS Visualization technology is actually pretty generic so in the future we would like to make it compatible with a lot of different manufacturers.”
How does it work? The CAN-Gateway ECU works in real-time to log position, speed, rpm, accelerator pedal stroke, steering angle, brake signals and more using GPS-coordinated data relayed from a Scion FR-S/Toyota 86 data port to a flash drive. When done driving, the data can be exported into the game after plugging the drive into a console.
Taku Imasaki, North American producer of Gran Turismo, revealed further specifics about the game’s development and the GPS Visualization feature. “The game was in development for four years – we started developing right after GT5 released. A lot has been learned since GT5. The GPS Visualization is a joint project between Toyota and us. You take a USB memory stick and stick it into the car’s USB data port before running a few laps on any track that is in GT6. You then stick it in the PS3, click on the GPS Visualizer icon in game and you’ll be able to regenerate the actual laps just completed. The replay looks exactly like it would after completing an in-game race. You can also export it out, share it with friends and race against the replay of others.
You can study mistakes from different angles, look at the stats and review you’re overall laps. People that come out to the track often will dig this – it’s much better than reviewing a YouTube onboard cam video. Toyota came up with this idea but we’d like to have more cars implement this. Eventually we’d like to have racing celebrities lap around the track and then online players can try to trace them.”
After watching front GoPro footage of Dai sprinting around Streets paired next to the game’s recreation of his lap through the digital lens of the hood cam, digital accuracy was apparent – the game version of Streets does make the track surface appear better than it is but that is no complaint.
It was then time to test it out ourselves on the awaiting technical circuit. Danny Mckeever, owner and chief instructor at Fastlane Racing School, hopped in shotgun to highlight the best way around the track, TC off of course. This was the first time I’d driven an FR-S on track and it didn’t take long to find out how tail happy it is sans traction control (see video). After applying too much gas to early on the exit of Turn 11, skid went the tires and out came a 360 spin, captured perfectly by the GPS Visualizer.
First observation once the replay was loaded was track pace. It looked way slower than it felt like in real life to no fault of the technology. As a gamer, you are used to doing things not normally possible like racing WOT with no fear of consequence. Well, flying around Streets is much easier in a video game. The GPS Visualizer replay highlighted where I needed improvement - an apex blown there, braking too early there, a missed shift there and so on. Having the ability to switch between a range of replay camera angles really helped examine the laps too. The game had just become my classroom coach. Pretty cool.
There is no doubt a motorsports enthusiast is behind GT6 and all of the previous installments in the series. Imasaki-san summed up GT6’s focus on reality, “We have a crazy mentor/visionary [Kazunori Yamauchi] that goes out and races cars at places like the Nurburgring. Our game is delivered more towards the true car fanatics.”
Video games are no longer just a means of entertainment; they are more powerful learning tools than ever before. Can a game simulate the feeling of elevation change or the forces physically experienced at the edge of piloting a race car? Not yet, but GT6’s GPS Visualization feature is a large step forward in blending the fictional world of video games with real life. The newbie to professional racer will find value with this capture/replay tool whether it be to get faster or as an avenue in transforming a non-car enthusiast into a motorhead through a video game. We can’t wait to see where this new technology goes. Video game AI is out and mirroring human habits is in.