Gran Turismo 6 wants to bring your real-life races to its digital tracks

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With more than 15 years of development history behind it, the Gran Turismo series is no longer satisfied with simply being a racing simulator. According to producer Taku Imasaki, developer Polyphony Digital's dream is to realize all aspects of car ownership within its game. Thankfully, a 12-hour-long "Day at the DMV" mode isn't in the cards yet. Instead, the team has been hard at work developing two GPS-powered features that incorporate your real-life driving data into Gran Turismo 6.

The course maker--a returning feature from GT5--will let you create tracks using GPS coordinate data collected via the game's smartphone app, while the GPS visualizer will let you re-create entire driving sessions using data pulled from your real-life vehicle. Both of these features were recently announced on the game's official website, so I caught up with Imasaki to get some more information on this new technology.

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Have you ever wondered how quickly you'd wreck your car while driving to work at 90mph, or how it would feel to try to race a Formula One car on your local go-kart track? The GT6 companion app will let you answer these burning questions, and others, using GPS coordinate data. When enabled, the app will trace your movement and record how far you traveled in the real world. You will then be able to import that data into Gran Turismo 6, which will generate a racetrack that follows the same path as the recorded data.

However, the app only records the path you took and doesn't record other details such as the road's width or surrounding scenery. Those details will be fine-tuned using GT6's course maker within the game itself. As Imasaki noted, the course maker will be an expanded version of what was in the previous game, but he wasn't ready to dive into specifics just yet.

One addition the team is hoping to include is point-to-point tracks, or tracks that aren't a complete loop. If you're trying to record your morning commute using the app, for example, chances are you won't be making a complete loop. Imasaki acknowledged that point-to-point track support is something the team is aware of, but it remains to be seen whether this feature will make it into Gran Turismo 6.

Using GPS data to retrace driving routes may make for an interesting companion app, but it's just a stepping stone toward greater things for Polyphony, such as the GPS visualizer. True to its name, this technology lets you visualize in GT6 every decision you made while driving in the real world. The way it works is that an automotive manufacturer attaches a small device to your car's computer. This device then records data that the computer is receiving, such as throttle control, brake timing, steering angles, and whether or not you're terrible at parallel parking.

Imasaki was quick to note that this device isn't hacking into the computer--or otherwise interfering with it--in any way. It is just passively recording what you're telling the car to do. All this telemetry data is stored on a USB drive, which can be used to import it into GT6. The game will then construct a digital version of your real-life drive, letting you study the intricacies of your automotive performance in exhaustive detail.

The potential applications for this technology have the team at Polyphony extremely excited. As Imasaki explained, combining this technology with, say, a wireless streaming service could allow you to digitally insert yourself into a race that is happening in the real world. GT6 would use the data being streamed to recreate the race as it's happening, and could then drop you on the racetrack alongside the other racers. Alternatively, if two cars equipped with this technology got into an accident, you could review the data to help determine who was at fault. It's basically instant replay for the accident.

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However, these ideas are still in the realm of speculation. For the time being the GPS visualizer is primarily intended for personal improvement. A racer could complete a lap on the real-life Willow Springs, import that data into GT6, and watch the car in the game make the same decisions he did in real life on the virtual Willow Springs track. By reviewing this playback he could potentially spot minute errors in his performance. That visualizer data could also be shared as ghost data for others to compete against.

So far, GPS visualizer technology has only been integrated into the Toyota 86 in Japan--as well as its North American counterpart, the Scion FR-S. The device will be available in Japan starting next spring as a dealer option for the 86. No details are available yet regarding a North American release. Together, these GPS-powered technologies represent an exciting step forward for Polyphony and the Gran Turismo series towards becoming a truly complimentary experience for car owners everywhere.

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