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Digital Race Engineer Hands On

Hands on experience with Digital Race Engineer, and how it compares to Crew Chief. Is it maybe a bit too digital?

I’ve started watching a few random racing streams, not so much for the actual racing, but I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from it. Latelly i have been noticed a few streamers who use DRE (Digital Race Engineer) for race information, telemetry and voice commands, and I wanted to check it out. I personally have been using Crew Chief for Voice Commands, and have been pretty happy with it, but I’m always up to giving something else a try!

Please note

Since i wrote this post, a lot has happened to DRE. Its is being worked on, and improved so i honestly don’t believe that this post does it mutch justice.

A new and updated post is on its way, once the current version of DRE has been stabilised and gone through its huge improvements that it is going through at the moment

It costs money!

You can get a free version, that can do quite a lot, but if you want the really cool stuff, like “low IR or SR warning for drivers near you”, “advanced pit commands”, “incident count for all cars”, “live fuel calculations and warnings” and many more, you’ll have to upgrade to the PRO version.

That’s fair though, and the amount of info that DRE offers is really impressive, so I wouldn’t hesitate spending the money on it, if you want a full on engineer to help you on track. But there’s more…

You need Voice Attack

For DRE to work, you need a software called Voice Attack It translates your voice inputs to actions. Voice Attack is a paid software, and you need the full version for it to work. It seems like a very cool software, but it has its limitations. The biggest problem though, seems to be that the software it needs to send these actions to, need to be in focus. So if DRE programs Voice Attack to adjust brake balance, it can only do it if iRacing is in focus. If you have focus on an other program or window, that action will go to waste because it has been sent to your Spotify, OBS or whatever else you might be focused on.

Only Keyboard shortcuts

This is for me the biggest issue with DRE. It can only send keyboard shortcuts to iRacing. This is all fine, on top of a default iRacing installation and it even has the default iRacing values predefined. The problem though is, that if you have assigned some of the commands to external buttons, they won’t work. For example if you have your pit limiter, radio, brake bias, black boxes etc assigned to buttons on your wheel, or button boxes, DRE can’t use them!

There are ways around this, but they are a bit complicated. You can use HID Macros, Atnsoft key mapper or Joy2Key to assign actual key presses to your button boxes or wheel. The way this works is, that instead of assigning a button box button to iracing, you assign a combination of keyboard presses to the button box button and then assign those to the action you want on iRacing. Confused?

Basically, when you go into iRacing options and want to map you pit limiter button, instead of pressing the button on your wheel, you press something like Ctrl + Shift + Alt + P. Then you go into HID Macros, or Joy2Key and define that when you press the button on your wheel, it should translate that into Ctrl + Shift + Alt + P. Its pretty simple, but very time consuming if you have a lot of buttons. Luckily you only need to do this once!

Both HID Macros, and Joy2Key, are free software that accept donations. I have once tried Joy2Key, but never really used it. I do use HID Macros every day though, for my poor mans streamdeck alternative.

Very digital

Nowadays, AI is everywhere. Some we notice, others we don’t, because they are so lifelike! I’ve sometimes doubted if the person I’m on the phone with, or on a chat support, really are humans.

With DRE you won’t be doubting. It doesn’t even try to hide it. The TTS voice is a default windows voice and can be changed in your windows settings or upgraded, with a paid voice that has your preferred accent. It is very digital, and it even has trouble with some of the most common words in racing, like “limiter“. The wording can at times be slightly strange, like “you are down to 12P” instead of P12, but that i expect is down to the developer.

The commands need to be formulated in a pretty artificial way too. Although many commands can be said in different ways, the basic structure of commands need to be [Who][What][Where]. Keeping this in mind allows you to more or less guess commands that you don’t know, but it also forces commands to be something you would never say to a human.

  • [car] [iRating] [behind]
  • [track] [best lap time] [in front]
  • [best lap time] [in front] [on track]
  • [Track] [gap to] [ahead]

It does have some predefined commands that not only make sense, but even are really really cool!

  • Start writing will dictate what you say and send it as a chat message.
  • Laps stint ahead on track, will tell you how many laps the car in front (on track) has had in this stint
  • Car [number] last driver swap, tells you what lap they last had a driver swap

So much more info

I do sound very negative about DRE and it is unfair, because once you get past the hurtles with installing it, setting it up and adjusting to its needs, it really is fantastic! The amount of information, and the amount of actions it can do for you, is huge!

It is not only a help for you to avoid using your hands, but it will give you information that you can’t currently get through neither iracing, Kapps, Racelabapps or other popular overlays. Not to mention that it can clear the clutter of all sorts of overlays that you rarely need to look at.

When I started this post I more or less had decided to stick to Crew Chief, but while doing some more research for it, I realised that it has so much potential, and so many features that I simply have to give it a better chance, get to know it better and try to become friends.

I have done a few races with DRE and Crew Chief on at the same time. I just told Crew Chief to “be quiet” and i let DRE do the talking. I only used Crew Chief for commands that I couldn’t use DRE for at the moment because I haven’t remapped all of by button boxes. The result was that I really like DRE and all the information that it gives me. Especially the “watch out in 7 sec” or “yellow in 5 sec” has been very helpful!

I’ll go back to work, and give it a decent try and let you know how it went!

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