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THE DIGITAL RACE ENGINEER VS. CREW CHIEF

In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between the best spotters for iRacing, DRE and Crew Chief (CC)

User review and comparison (iRacing Forum)

Jon Barton reviews DRE vs CC in Spring 2021 on the iRacing Forum:

Crew Chief challenges

[…] I struggled and struggled with voice recognition in Crew Chief, and some other miscellaneous things like being able to change my Pit options once I’m already in the box. My experience with CC was that I would turn off Fast Repair in the first couple of laps, then when I needed it, I couldn’t get it turned back on, and the same thing for tires and fuel.

I retired from my first 4 League races after I started using Crew Chief because I couldn’t get CC to give me any gas. When CC *would* set the setting, I’d have to drive out of the pits, make a lap, then come back into the pits to get the gas I asked for.

Could be unique to me, could be that I only used CC for 2 weeks before getting frustrated and quit using it (so at least I could finish a race without running out of gas!)


Flexibility with DRE

None of those have ever been a problem with The Digital Race Engineer. I can drive all the way down pit road and park THEN ask for autofuel and all 4 tires and a fast repair and get them all immedately. The voice recognition is top notch, since it relies on VoiceAttack, which relies on Microsoft’s voice APIs – so when those get better (and they definitely have over the years) then DRE gets better.

An additional benefit is that DRE is ultimately a profile for VoiceAttack, which means you can add (or change) commands however you like. I’ve added commands to dynamically show/hide RaceLab Overlays in VR, because Racelab supports keybinds for those commands, and VoiceAttack allows you to send keystrokes to a specific application when a command is triggered. I’ve also added commands to switch to my Trucksim and Elite Dangerous profiles with a voice command (and commands in each of those to flip back to DRE, of course)


Features

In early 2021, the primary differences between Crew Chief and Digital Race Engineer are:

 

Simulator support

  • CrewChief supports a LOT of different racing games
  • DRE supports iRacing only (at this time)

Voices

  • CrewChief comes with a number of prerecorded voices for phrasing, and you’re locked into the specific recordings that exist.
  • CrewChief voices are prerecorded, so you can create new voice sets if you like and want to put in the work to create the recordings.
  • Conversely, CrewChief voices are usable only with CrewChief and can’t be used more generally.
  • CrewChief has only one Crew Chief voice available. The rest of the voices in CC are available as Spotters only.
  • Conversely – DRE uses software speech engines from Microsoft or others, like Ivona or Nuance.
  • Additional TTS voices like Ivona or Nuance can be used with other VoiceAttack profiles and commands for any (every) game you have, so long as you have/create a VoiceAttack profile for it.

Pricing

  • CrewChief is 100% free.
  • DRE uses VoiceAttack for recognition and response, and this represents a small additional one-time cost.

Voice Recognition

  • CrewChief has worse voice recognition overall.
  • DRE + VoiceAttack uses Microsoft’s speech engine as the back end, and the Microsoft Speech Engine has consistently gotten better over time (I’ve been using it since 2010),

Commands

  • CrewChief has an extensive, but limited, set of commands you can use.
  • DRE is ultimately a very very advanced VoiceAttack profile, which means you can edit it to add your own commands – for instance, to hide/show RaceLabs Information Panels, or to start/stop streaming in OBS, etc., with voice commands.

 

Conclusion

DRE is absolutely 10/10 for VR use. My biggest challenge is simply remembering all the hundreds of useful commands that are available. What a problem to have!

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