Augmented reality applications are a favorite of participants in individual sports like running, swimming and biking. While AR technology is great for offering the information that is vital to these athletes, current uses offer little in the way of training for players of team sports.
Team sports, like football and basketball, have a lot of moving parts and require a more immersive experience when an athlete has to train without an opponent to skirmish against or a team to run plays with. Fortunately, virtual reality technology may offer the solutions that these athletes need to improve their game.
Whether it’s due to rules about how often athletes can use the field or get the team together to practice, dealing with adverse weather conditions, or wanting to practice up off the clock or when an athlete isn’t feeling well, athletes can’t always head to the green to practice.
America’s National Football League is solving this problem with the help of STRIVR. This development company uses virtual reality technology to help individuals train in many industries, but they also work with most NFL teams.
By making players feel like they’re standing at the 50 yard line when they’re really standing in their room, STRIVR lets athletes drill a play into their brains without using their bodies. This lets athletes run plays over and over again without burning out so that they don’t have to choose between running plays all day and working out. Also, if a player is injured or sick they can keep their heads in the game without the physical demands.
STRIVR currently works with groups like NFL or Olympics teams, not weekend warriors or amateur players. While anyone can contact the company to learn more about training in VR, STRIVR’s VR solutions are probably not suitable for casual athletes.
STRIVR might be a little too much for casual athletes, but that doesn’t mean that VR technology is only for the professionals.
EON Sports is one VR sports training company that offers VR technology for every level of athletes. EON’s VR technology is mainly used by professional baseball teams right now, though some NFL teams use it too.
EON’s packages for professional athletes go all-out with the motion tracking software and room-sized displays that would make VR gamers go wild.
Semi-pro players used to have to run the software with a high-end computer and a projector, though the company has since developed an app that runs on a VR headset like you might already have for gaming. Unfortunately, you can’t just find it in the app store, you still need to contact the company.
Another piece of affordable VR technology that is helping athletes train is LucidCam.
This portable and affordable VR camera allows the filmer to take videos that can later be viewed in virtual reality.
While you can use it to film anything you want, some athletes use it to watch themselves throw a ball or swing a golf club or tennis racket from multiple angles so that they can perfect their form.
VR technology company Beyond Sports offers immersive solutions for fans as well as for professional athletes.
Beyond Sports offers pre-made VR packages for some industries including American football and football/soccer, but they also offer personalized packages for any sport.
The Beyond Sports experience aims to use VR technology to increase training “density” by reducing the amount of time that it takes for athletes to practice. By running plays over and over without needing to reset the field, Beyond Sports saves valuable time and reduces the potential for injury or overwork.
Particularly interactive, Beyond Sports also stresses programs that can allow athletes not to merely watch immersive videos of plays being run, but also to move within these programs to test how they might be able to move in plays on the field.
Unlike many of the other techniques discussed in this article, Beyond Sports is only for professionals and doesn’t offer less-advanced packages for less advanced athletes.
Beyond Sports is only one of many VR technology companies stressing the cognitive rather than physical value of training in VR. Perhaps a better example, however, is NeuroTrainer.
NeuroTrainer claims that their VR technology works for athletes by helping them learn to pay attention to multiple things at once, as well as learning to focus on their peripheral vision — our view of the things around where our eyes are focused.
VR technology from NeuroTrainer is also aimed at professional athletes only and does not offer solutions for amateur or semiprofessional athletes.
Not all VR athletic applications focus solely on the cognitive aspects of sports, however. SportsImproVR works with the HTC Vive or the Samsung Gear to provide accessible VR and motion tracking that is meant to improve the strength, speed, and agility of athletes by helping them work out in virtual settings similar to the sports that they play.
While traditional workouts are enough for most of us, many sports involve ranges of motion that are difficult to work out with machines or even with free weights. By letting people work out while simulating their sport of choice, this VR technology provides new ways for athletes to improve their game.
Targeted at semi-professional athletes rather than professionals or amateurs, SportsImproVR is more affordable and more accessible than many of the technologies discussed in this article, though you’ll still need to contact the company to look into buying this tech for yourself.