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Here’s How the Cowboys and the Jets Are Using VR to Up Their Game


Kelsey Pommer, Manager, Digital Media, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Virtual reality is taking the world by storm, and the sports world is no exception. VR enables athletes to practice their craft even while they aren’t physically on the field or court. One new Consumer Technology Association (CTA) member STRIVR Labs has developed software to train athletes through VR, and professional and college teams alike are taking advantage of this groundbreaking tech.

We had a chance to speak with the STRIVR Labs CEO, Derek Belch, about VR and sports and where STRIVR Labs is going next.

How did you first begin STRIVR Labs? What problems were you trying to solve when developing the technology?
STRIVR began when I was a graduate assistant coach for the Stanford football team during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. I was studying in the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) under Professor Jeremy Bailenson, who is one of the world's leading experts in virtual reality. My master’s thesis while coaching was to come up with a way to train football players using VR. 
It was a great use case for the technology, because there are a few inherent problems in football where VR makes a ton of sense:

  1. There is never enough time to get enough quality work on the field. There are rules in the NFL, NCAA and even high school about how long players are allowed to be on the field. As such, a player may only get one or two reps of a particular play on the field during a given practice week, while backup players may not get any reps at all. VR allows them to get these "experiential reps" when off the field.
  2. Most players watch practice film from camera angles that are very high in the air and well behind the play or to the side. This is not how players see the field when they actually play the game. VR allows for a first-person view of what the player actually sees on the field, as opposed to an unrealistic view from high above. Football is a very physical game. Players get hurt all the time or take practice days off in order to keep their bodies fresh during the season. VR allows for a player to get the mental reps he needs despite missing time on the practice field.

How does your training software work?

We have come up with a unique, football-specific formula, of sorts, for how to capture certain practice plays from a first-person perspective. The end result is a 360-degree view of what the player sees from his vantage point on the field. The software stores all of the content while giving the end-users the ability to sort and categorize it as they wish. While players use the software, we use advanced data-tracking and analytics to better understand who is using the software and how. This data allows us to constantly make improvements to our offering, while also assessing the impact of VR usage on performance in practices and games.

Which of our favorite NFL teams are using STRIVR Labs technology this season?

In the NFL, we work with the Vikings, 49ers, Bills, Cowboys, Jets and Cardinals. We are working with 13 teams at the college level.
 

What is next for STRIVR Labs?

We are constantly assessing ways to improve content capture and playback to the end-user. Additionally, we are putting a big emphasis on data capture and analytics to ensure that the offering is proving effective.

While we are working with some NBA teams and players and a MLB team, VR is not 100 percent ready for full-scale adoption in these sports like it is in football. As such, we will constantly monitor improvements in hardware to allow us to provide VR training solutions for other sports as well.
 

Learn more about our incredible CTA members at CTA.tech/membership.

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