i3 | August 17, 2017

Derek Belch, founder and CEO, STRIVR Labs

Bronwyn Flores

"We anticipate applications in corporate training and education will be the biggest growth areas over the next ­five to 10 years."

In 2007, Derek Belch was a kicker on the Stanford University football team and a student in Professor Jeremy Bailenson’s vaunted Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Belch was convinced virtual reality (VR) could help his fellow players more effectively prepare for upcoming games than traditional game footage filmed from the sidelines or end zone. At the time, the technology wasn’t mature enough to make Belch’s dreams a reality, but Bailenson saw the potential.

Six years later, Belch became an assistant coach at Stanford and worked hand in hand with Bailenson to develop that enables players to relive their practices from their own perspectives. “We’re using VR to improve human performance,” says Belch. “When someone actually puts it on, we give them an authentic, realistic 360-degree view of what they would experience when they’re supposed to do their given task.”

Today, STRIVR has become a stunning success. NFL teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets, as well as many NCAA football programs, use the technology to better train their players. Bailenson has invited Fortune 500 CEOs, members of Congress, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to learn about STRIVR’s game-changing technology.

Q: What is the STRIVR user experience like?

A: By using a lot of different 360 cameras and combining real videos with CGI-based content, we create an authentic experience for the user. The videos are organized in a custom library for each player or employee to study them and improve their retention of concepts and reaction time. Instead of only getting a few repetitions of a certain play or job responsibility, our users can master the mental aspects of doing their jobs. 

Q: What do you expect to be your biggest growth area in the next few years? What’s next for STRIVR?

A: We anticipate applications in corporate training and education will be the biggest growth areas over the next five to 10 years. As we continue to improve upon and evaluate the efficacy of our technology and services, we see opportunities to advance training in a corporate environment by utilizing the affordances of VR technology. Giving individuals an opportunity to feel immersed and to interact with training scenarios in new ways, we expect companies to see improvements in efficiency and skill level, as well as a more evolved sense of social interaction in the workplace.

Q: How could changes in Washington help ensure entrepreneurs like you and the VR business as a whole succeed?

A: Especially as it relates to California (and challenges with the cost of living), encouraging access to faster internet and public or shared transportation would make it easier for our employees to be remote or decrease their transportation costs. In general, we hope that states will embrace education initiatives that encourage people of all ages and background to get involved in STEM opportunities.

July/August 2017 i3 Cover Issue

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