“The Rival Rig” — Visionary Esports Hardware

7 min reading time
BMW as a driving force for Esports: “The Rival Rig” is the first product from the RIVALWORKS virtual technology factory and among other things lets gamers sit more comfortably than ever — thanks to innovative AI input.

17 September 2021

Esports has long since been elevated from niche sport into a worldwide trend. The boundaries between real-life sports and the on-screen experience are becoming increasingly fluid. Technology and equipment — as well as raw talent — are therefore crucial for gamers. For example, with Sim Racing ( Read more: Racing games—10 gaming tips and tricks from a pro), original steering wheels and racing seats make the digital driving feel and experience even more true-to-life. BMW shifts up an equipment gear with the world premiere of “The Rival Rig,” a high-tech setup consisting of seat, screen and networking, at the same time looking into the future of Esports. 

The visionary Esports hardware is the first product from the RIVALWORKS virtual technology factory, explains Stefan Ponikva, Vice President Brand Experience BMW. “‘The Rival Rig’ marks the launch of the first product out of our virtual technology forge. As a tech company, we see this as the logical link between reality and entirely new digital experiences. BMW Group Designworks has turned this bold vision into awesome reality.”

In the video:

“The Rival Rig” by RIVALWORKS
BMW Esports Boost, RIVALWORKS and ”The Rival Rig” show how much of a strong driving force BMW is for Esports.
Stefan Ponikva,

Vice President Brand Experience BMW

RIVALWORKS: From Virtual to Reality

RIVALWORKS made its first appearance in the fictional “Heroes of Rivalry” manga series, ( Read more: Info on Heroes of Rivalry) where BMW, together with its partner teams, recently offered Esports fans a completely new storytelling format. RIVALWORKS was staged as a technology factory where BMW engineers researched new ideas and hardware components. The goal is always to use innovative technology to foster competition between players and teams in Esports, taking it to a whole new level. This has culminated in the first (real) product: “The Rival Rig.” 

BMW engineers developed the concept for this multifunctional gaming hardware in the real world, supported by Designworks, the BMW Group’s innovation studio. They mainly focused on “Gaming Performance,” “Players’ Health” and “Open Source.” As a result, “The Rival Rig” offers many helpful functionalities which support player performance and at the same time include health aspects. It is also designed as an open platform into which future ideas and inspiration from the community carry just as much weight as those from gaming platforms or third-party hardware and software providers. The many highlights of “The Rival Rig” include its “Microclimate Control System” and “Adaptive Seating.” This is where AI-controlled interaction of integrated sensors, as well as pneumatic air cushions and electro-mechanical actuators, combine to ensure that the entire platform is perfectly aligned with players.

Our design was influenced by spaceships and Formula 1 cars. This project was more about millimeters than centimeters.
Holger Hampf,

President BMW Group Designworks

“The Rival Rig” — Much More Than Just an Innovative Chair

Designworks meets RIVALWORKS — Holger Hampf, president of Designworks, gives us an insight into how he and his team approached the challenge: “More so than in any previous project, ‘The Rival Rig’ from BMW and RIVALWORKS was all about pushing the limits of human capabilities. We wanted to create a gaming rig design that would take both the technology and aesthetics in the field to a whole new level. Our aim was to provide the most comfortable ergonomics of seating, hand position and headroom, allowing gamers to almost feel a sense of weightlessness as they fully immerse themselves in their world. As a designer, you’re lucky to have the opportunity to work on a project like this once in a lifetime. We were able to take the technology to extremes.” 

Formula 1 as a Source of Inspiration

The team drew inspiration from equally extraordinary sources for this extraordinary excursion into the world of Esports ( Read also: A beginner’s guide to esports). “We looked for inspiration in areas where people have to make decisions within fractions of a second,” says Hampf, illustrating the point. “Our design was influenced by spaceships and Formula 1 cars. When you think about spacecraft design and manned spaceflight, it’s very clear that astronauts have to operate highly complex systems and make rapid decisions. This often goes beyond what we would normally consider humanly possible. We see the same in Formula 1, where drivers’ physical capabilities are honed to the extreme. We applied the experience from these areas to the new environment, right down to a microscopic level. This project was more about millimeters than centimeters.”

The Rival Rig: Tailor-Made for Players and Spectators

“The Rival Rig” is a gateway for Esports fans bridging the gap between real and virtual worlds. This is also reflected in the design, as Hampf reveals. “First of all, we worked closely with gamers when we were developing the gaming rig. We needed to understand a potential user's physical characteristics in terms of height, weight, arm length, hand size, and so on, to create a design that immerses the gamer in another world. Second, a lot of the design decisions we made for the rig were based on the aesthetics you typically find within the games themselves. These visual worlds also influenced the atmosphere we wanted to create: The gaming rig reflects exactly what is happening in the game with the help of LED lighting effects that utilize the entire light spectrum. This ranges from quiet moods to brightly lit action scenes.” 

This electrifying interaction between players and fans in the Esports community also played a major role in the design process of this visionary gaming hardware. “The gaming rig is not only focused on the player, but also on the spectators,” explains Hampf. This is because Esports is a growing market with high spectator figures — both online and at live events. “We wanted to make sure that ‘The Rival Rig’ reinforced the connection between gamers and spectators. For example, special lighting features let fans and spectators feel they are part of the action.”


AI Provides the Ultimate Virtual Gaming Experience

In addition to its striking look, “The Rival Rig” gaming platform also sets standards in its function — utilizing artificial intelligence and intelligent sensors. Hampf and his team have designed a unique rig that can actually “read” the user and communicate with them by constantly analyzing their movements. This means gamers no longer have to make adjustments themselves. If the temperature around the gamer’s back rises, the rig provides cooling air there. If the gamer leans heavily on the armrests, the rig lowers the armrests to eliminate any pressure points. It’s a gaming rig made possible by AI — and it opens new worlds of Esports experience. 

BMW in Esports

BMW has been partnering with five of the world’s best teams in the classic game “League of Legends” since 2020. Cloud 9, FNATIC, FunPlus Phoenix, G2 Esports and T1 wear the BMW colors at the industry’s biggest events. The highlight of their first season together in 2020 was the Worlds, where G2 Esports and FNATIC came through against the best teams in the world to reach the elimination round of the finals. This path led as far as the semi-finals for G2 Esports. The “Dota 2” specialists from OG Esport have also been part of the “United in Rivalry” lineup since April 2021. BMW’s commitment to Esports offers completely new points of contact with a dynamic and fast-growing community.

BMW is also prominently represented in sim racing and has integrated BMW SIM Racing ( Read also: Perfectly equipped for a virtual race track) into its racing program as a stand-alone element. The BMW SIM Cups attract the world’s best sim racers, who compete for victories, titles and attractive prize money in virtual BMW racing cars. BMW SIM Racing teams will be on the grid for the first time in 2021. BS+COMPETITION, G2 Esports, Team GB and Team Redline represent BMW on various simulation platforms.

Author: Markus Löblein; Photos: BMW; Video: BMW

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