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NASCAR kicked off in September 2019 its NASCAR AR Burnout Experience for fans with augmented reality (AR)-enabled mobile devices.

“Our goal is to bring fans as close to the sport as possible, and AR is an ideal medium to help us accomplish that as we look to engage the NASCAR fans of both today and tomorrow,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief digital officer, in the company’s announcement.

NASCAR wants to bring the experience of being at a race or at racing activities like burnouts to millions of fans who cannot attend an event in person.

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“This is an outreach effort,” said Clark. “Together with our business partners, we wanted to create platforms for customer engagement that generate enthusiasm and participation with our fans.”

Clark said the AR burnout simulation experience took many months of research and due diligence.

“Going into this project, we knew that it was going to be ‘leading edge,’ so we leaned on business partners with established mobile delivery platforms such as Apple and Google,” said Clark. “We also employed a software development agency to assist us with developing the AR applications, and we had a team of around half a dozen developers and specialists on our own staff that were dedicated to the project.”

Since video data used for the burnouts was for simulations and not real-time video, the data was stored in an offline data repository. This data was optimized for performance so that bandwidth constraints with user mobile devices were minimized.

The project involved capturing 3D renderings of cars and then creating a virtualization of burnouts that approximated the experience of being at a live burnout event.

“This was our second augmented reality experience in two years,” said Clark. “We are just beginning to get feedback from fans from this latest project, and the feedback has been very positive. We now look at AR as an integral part of our customer outreach strategy, and will look forward to new opportunities to engage our fans with it.”

NASCAR isn’t alone in its efforts to engage customers with AR and big data. IKEA uses augmented reality to assist customers with AR visualizations of how furniture will look in different living spaces. Coca-Cola has also developed an AR application that assists retailers in visualizing how a beverage cooler would fit into their stores. Like NASCAR, Coca-Cola and IKEA employed outside expertise to develop and launch their AR apps, and they involved internal IT in these efforts to facilitate knowledge transfer and ongoing application support.

The takeaway for big data architects and digital leaders

If you haven’t already, it’s time to expand your big data visions beyond “back office” analytics and into the real world of live customer engagement with video and AR streaming services that keep customers connected and engaged. This is the next frontier for big data.