This football season, the New England Patriots will have another way of being tracked on the field. Instead of worrying about another “deflategate”, Tom Brady and his teammates will be using virtual reality to enhance their training. The Patriots are one of three pro teams working with a Silicon Valley company called STRIVR Labs, who create immersive sports experiences. The 49ers, Cowboys and several college teams have already gotten on board with the new virtual reality technology that is expected to help the players excel in their training.
STRIVR Labs was founded earlier this year by Jeremy Bailenson, the director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, along with Derek Belch. Belch has used the insight he gained from his experience as a kicker and assistant football coach at Stanford, and was the first to test virtual football training at the University. The technology involves a 360-camera being positioned near the quarterback so that footage from his point of view is captured. Once off the field, the players strap on headsets that look like oversized ski goggles, which let them review the practice in a virtual reality world. Players can turn their heads and look around the field to see how the plays unfold from the point of view of the quarterback. Belch says that the goal is not to replace traditional film watching, but to compliment it with a tool that can effectively train and help players learn quicker.
Benefits of Virtual Reality in Football
Before the STRIVR technology, coaches had likened the virtual reality products on the market to glorified video games. Now, coaches are able to see action from the eyes of the quarterback and get a better handle on why they may be struggling with particular plays. Coaches can analyze what the players are looking at, so that on offensive plays where a quarterback always looks the wrong way, they can eliminate those plays from his repertoire.
Quarterbacks also get the opportunity to have a new perspective that goes beyond reviewing plays virtually. With this innovative technology, a quarterback may dissect his performance during practice more thoroughly, as well as turn left or right to analyze his throwing mechanics or downward to study his footwork.
The Future of STRIVR Virtual Reality
STRIVR technology has taken off, with many college teams taking advantage of its benefits. Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Dartmouth, Auburn, Stanford and Clemson started working with the company this year. So far they are the only virtual reality firm to work with NFL clubs to make footage with real players instead of avatars. The company expects to add about 12 professional teams and 10 more colleges to the list in the upcoming months. Coaches are already toying with the idea of how other positions on the field can benefit from the system, as well as how it can familiarize players with their opponents’ tactics. No matter which team you play for, one thing can be agreed upon, the future of football technology is here and it is here to stay.