Rocket Racing League, Led by XSITE Keynoter and X Prize Founder Peter Diamandis, Readies iPhone & iPad Game

The Rocket Racing League game coming to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad early this summer is a rare beast: a futuristic video game that’s based on real life.

RRL Games, a wing (or should I say fin?) of the Orlando, FL-based Rocket Racing League, is expected to release its game for the iPhone and iPod Touch this month and for the iPad in June. Judging from previews, it’s a high-octane simulation of the even higher-octane real-world sport of rocket racing, in which pilots fly four-seat, delta-wing airplanes modified with rocket engines that burn liquid oxygen and ethanol.

Rocket racing, which CNN reporter Miles O’Brien has called “a mashup between Stars Wars pod racing and NASCAR,” is the co-creation of investor Granger Whitelaw and X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, who will give a keynote presentation at the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (XSITE) on June 17. Their Rocket Racing League organization raised a $5.5 million venture round last year to advance its vision of a rocket racing circuit that would take place at airfields around the country, with fans watching military, acrobatic, and test pilots competing in four-lap heats around a 5-mile raceway.

Peter-DiamandisThe league is recruiting teams for the competitions now, and the first races are tentatively planned for 2011. But meanwhile, eager fans will be able to experience rocket racing on their Apple mobile devices. In screen shots from the game, rocket planes zoom through course markers that define the race course—essentially virtual tunnels in the sky. In actual rocket races, pilots will have heads-up displays showing them much the same information, and fans will be able to watch their progress from the ground on jumbotrons running augmented-reality software. (You have to watch this video from a demonstration in Tulsa, OK, to fully grok this.)

The organization says that eventually, it would like iPhone- or iPad-toting spectators to be able to race virtual planes alongside the actual ones in real time. But that’s a ways off. In the nearer term, gamers will be able to use the apps to compare race times with their friends on Facebook, as Diamandis explained in the following e-mail interview.

Xconomy: Do you hope that the rocket racing video game will help to generate increased interest in rocket racing as a real-world sport?

Peter Diamandis: In the development of any business, especially a sports league, it’s vital that we give our fans as many ways to get involved and be a part of the action as possible. The RRL game allows our fans to design and pilot their very own virtual X-Racer and compete amongst themselves for the best race times—so even if RRL isn’t racing that day, our fans always are. They may even make it onto the Global Leaderboard, with the ability to post race results on a Facebook account and friends’ Facebook walls. [The iPad version of the game] features Facebook Challenges—an exclusive feature lets players challenge any posted race result, share all outcomes and be challenged by Facebook friends. By keeping our fans connected with each other and racing each other, the game will grow the interest in the sport exponentially.

X: Do you see rocket racing as having educational value for students or fans?

PD: Motor sports in general have enormous general education value. When students are able to use math and physics to compare multiple moving vehicles in relation to the atmosphere around them you are providing them with a very contemporary and relevant frame of reference that has a much higher chance of earning their attention. Since our vehicles fly and have rocket engines, there is also an element of chemistry and atmospheric science.

X: Does rocket racing also create opportunities for entrepreneurship?

PD: RRL provides qualified teams with the opportunity to buy a place in the League and build profitable businesses through sponsorship and other income, as well as enjoy the perks and glory of competition and team ownership. RRL is designed to build upon the successful business models of multi-billion dollar properties, such as NASCAR and Formula One car racing, the global popularity of air shows and air racing, as well as the latest business models of the gaming industry for casual, downloadable, social and massive multiplayer hardcore games. RRL will drive revenue from multiple robust and diverse sources, including: sponsorship (of races, venues, pilots, teams and the League itself), media broadcast (television and internet), computer and video games, event sales (tickets and concessions) and merchandising.

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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