Virtual Reality is Changing Sports Today
I strapped on an HTC Vive for the first time about a month ago and it changed my life — my childhood fantasy of visiting a digital world was finally realised. I experienced Fruit Ninja, a zombie FPS and a couple of other basic games. The content wasn’t too extensive but the level of immersion was AMAZING! I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise and my heart nearly leap out of my chest (on multiple occasions) as zombies poured in from every direction. I never realised how unsteady my hands were until I aimed down the sights of a virtual pistol.
It’s easy to see why there’s so much excitement behind virtual reality gaming… but what about for non-gamers. And more specifically how can VR benefit the sports industry and the most elite athletes in the world? Here are three companies changing the sports industry today with virtual reality technology.
Imagine sitting court-side in LA for Kobe Bryant’s final performance where he dropped 60 points, or being on the sidelines of next year's Superbowl 2017 without paying a dime. Virtual reality is almost always associated with gaming, but the technology goes so much further than video games. NextVR is a virtual reality company that captures and delivers live and on-demand footage, giving users the ability to view sporting events as if they were actually sitting in the stands or directly in the action. It may take a couple of years for the everyday consumer to adopt virtual reality in their homes, but NextVR wasted no time and they have positioned themselves at the forefront of virtual reality entertainment.
EON Sports SIDEKIQ Engine
Not only is VR used for live streaming and entertainment, but there are professional and amature sports teams using VR to improve their athletic performance today. EON Sports Sidekiq engine uses computer generated images to help athletes bring their practice home with them away from the field.
In the video above we see baseball players taking batting practice within a VR simulation, but there are other ways to use the Sidekiq engine as well: studying plays, learning new moves, etc. This technology gives athletes a competitive edge by filling the gap between being on the field and watching game film. Think of it this way, a pilot trains in a simulation which gives him the experience needed to fly an actual plane — Sidekiq is a simulation for athletes that lets them train in the same environment that they compete. Rather than spending hours studying film athletes can now train within realistic simulations.
There is often a huge learning curve when transitioning to the next level of athletics — faster pace, stronger competition, new plays, new teammates, and so on. StriVR Labs' virtual reality technology was founded by former Stanford athlete and assistant coach Derek Belch. EON Sports Sidekiq focuses on animated simulations to help athletes improve, but StriVR uses 360-degree high-definition footage of every position and play on a field/court for each team that they work with. This gives teams full access to a live-action playbook during off time. The difference between StriVR Labs' technology and Sidekiq is the ability to study actual people that make realistic movements. The graphics on a simulation can be gorgeous, but can’t compare to the actual athletes that the simulations pattern.
When asked about this technology former NFL player Coy Wire said, “At the beginning of my career I was given a 300 page playbook. At the end of my career I was given an iPad. Now players are given an entire experience simply by putting on these goggles [virtual reality headset].” Coy is right — VR is changing the way that athletes train off the field for the better, and will soon be the norm.
While virtual reality has a ways to go before it’s accepted by the masses, there are still innovations happening within the sports industry today. These three innovative companies are paving the way for athletes and fans alike.
What do you think of virtual reality in sports? Let us know in the comments below!