I’m just back from the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Monaco. It was a once in a lifetime trip for me, and something I’d been hoping to do for the last 25 years.
Kangaroo? So what is Kangaroo TV (now FanVision)? Well, the premise is simple, you attend a live sports event because of the atmosphere, the spectacle, the sound and in the case of motorsport, even the smell! Walking the track at Monaco was akin to walking out at Wembley or some other great stadium for a football fan. However, being used to watching a Grand Prix with modern TV coverage, you realise there’s a lot of information you depend on for your enjoyment of the race – action replays, in-car footage and timing data. And so enter Kangaroo TV, a device which attempts to bring the best of the living room experience to the excitement of the race track.
Booking & Collecting We rented the unit in advance using the www.kangaroo.tv website. We chose the weekend rate at $95 (approx £50), the Saturday only rate (qualifying day) was $50 and the Sunday rate (race day) was $60. The first problem was getting information on where to pickup the unit. The collection point details weren’t very impressive, the map (below) is supposed to show where the kiosk was located to collect the unit, marked by the Kangaroo logo. The red square (added by us) was much more like where the stand was actually located. The address given referred to a general area (Placed’Armes ) and it took us a while to finally locate the kiosk. In these days of GPS and Google Maps there’s no excuse for such poor directions. Another gripe was that we had quite a walk from our Casin0 Square stand to take the unit back after the race. There seem to be multiple kiosks locations at other races though, so perhaps this is a problem with the lack of space around the tiny Monaco principality. Another little detail that was incorrect was the return time. According to our confirmation email the units had to be back by 6:30pm on the Sunday, but the girl at the kiosk told us it was 10:00pm.
When we eventually found the stand, I produced my passport – the confirmation email said we’d need “Photographic ID” in order to collect the unit, but we were told it wasn’t required. I was then told I needed to pay again as some of the pre-bookings from the website “hadn’t gone through PayPal properly”. Understandably I queried this and the girl serving us talked to another member of the staff on the stand and then told us it was OK, we didn’t need to pay again. Not exactly confidence inspiring. The unit was then put into the carrying pouch and given to us, we had no demonstration and no instructions were included, all in all a pretty shoddy start to our Kangaroo TV experience.
Using the Device The pouch bag included the TV unit itself, a set of headphones in a retractable case, a fully charged spare battery and a battery charger – you only get the charger if you take the weekend booking. The unit is approximately 4 inches by 6 inches and worn on a lanyard around your neck. It can dangle there whilst providing the audio feed and you can lift the unit up to view the stats or TV coverage when you need to. The lanyard also has a clip allowing you to keep the strap around your neck whilst the unit is removed for storage.
Turning on the device for the first time it scans the network for a signal. It took us about 30 minutes to realise the aerial actually extends, another reason it would have been nice to have had a quick demo and a basic set of instructions. The Kangaroo system is based on a Linux platform and uses mobile phone technology to receive up to 10 live MPEG4 feeds, along with AAC3 and MP3 audio streams. The first thing you do is set your favourite driver. This driver is then highlighted in the timing data screens for easy identification.
The unit has two main modes, accessed from the red TV button and the blue STATS button. We were lucky enough to be sat opposite the large screens round the circuit on both days, so we could see the main video feed on those. The unit also allows you to select in-car footage, although this was limited to around half a dozen drivers.
On the audio side the commentary feed was in 3 or 4 different languages, with each language getting its turn for a few minutes. It would have been much nicer to get a feed per language. We found the volume level too low during the race. However, when twenty-two F1 cars are passing you a few meters away, its hard to say what would be loud enough to hear over them! Again this is probably a particular problem in Monaco, I’ve been to Silverstone and been an awful lot further away from the cars.
I thought we would have been hearing pit radio from our selected favourite driver, but instead we got audio from random drivers throughout the race. Most times it wasn’t even possible to tell who they were unless their crew used their name.
The unit is supplied with an excellent set of headphones. I use a very similar set with my iPod and these are the only kind that fit my ears and stay in. They fit snugly inside your ear and create a seal so they have a noise reduction effect also. The unit uses a standard headphone mini-jack socket so you use it with your own earphones if you prefer (Tip – Pack a 2nd set of headphones and a doubler so two of you can listen in at the same time). A nice little touch is that you get to keep these, complete in their F1 branded case which is a useful and unique memento of your race weekend.
For our money the unit came into its own during the Saturday Qualifying session. The live timing data was not available anywhere else but on our Kangaroo system. Other spectators simply had no way of knowing who was where in the order apart from hearing the odd snippet from the course commentary when the PA wasn’t obliterated by the screaming V8s.
The Future Kangaroo TV is already being used in Nascar and the company has just announced a partnership for the 2007 Le Mans 24 hour race. There are many other sports events that could benefit like Golf, Tennis, Cricket and Football for example.
Would I Recommend? So, the bottom line, was it worth renting. I’d definitely say yes. Whilst some of the finer points of some of the features need improving, and our experience of renting the unit left a lot to be desired, without doubt the system added to the enjoyment of our race weekend, especially having the live timing information for qualifying which was not available on the screen around the track. In the grand scheme of the cost of a Grand Prix weekend, the rental cost is insignificant and it gives you the added information that keeps you in the loop, whilst experiencing the thrill of actually being there.
+ Definitely adds to the race experience
+ Selectable In-Car Footage
+ Live Timing Data – especially useful for Qualifying
+ Decent quality headphones (that you get to keep!)
+ Spare Battery (plus Charger supplied with weekend rental)
+ Battery life
– Poor collection details & experience
– Not loud enough (for Monaco anyway)
– Screen could be brighter
www.kangaroo.tv – now www.FanVision.com