The 2nd annual Immersive
Technology in Sports & Entertainment Summit is to be held in the Bay Area
in November. And the sequel to last years successful
summit could not have come at a better time as 2018 has been a breakthrough
year for immersive technology in sports. Virtual reality (VR), in particular,
is trudging ever so close to relevancy across a variety of sports.
VR is viewed as a potential game changer in terms of giving fans an immersive experience, while watching sporting events. This potential was discussed at length by Jaunt VP of development and strategy Mitzi Reaugh and AR/VR Labs director of product Michael Ludden in a panel moderated by Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget. Both agree that using VR to enhance fan experience is at best, a work in progress, but its potential to enhance the viewing experience at home and at sporting venues is immense.
Sports fans are not the only beneficiaries of VR, with athletes also benefiting from this technology to help them improve their sport. Coral notes that VR is now increasingly used by athletes as a training tool, with F1 drivers, in particular, now getting an “extra edge” via virtual cockpits that simulate actual racing conditions. Retired F1 champion Nico Rosberg understands the benefits of VR training first-hand as he, himself, benefited from it. “We had a simulator that was virtual reality and we used a lot of that to prepare for the actual driving,” Rosberg explained to Wareable, before pointing out that drivers are “not allowed to test.” This means VR training is the closest they will ever get to an actual test drive.
Players in the NFL are also getting help from VR, with most teams in the league using VR technology patented by industry leader STRIVR. Quarterbacks are benefiting from VR training as they get to review thousands of plays — or “mental reps” — in great detail. Case Keenum is a great example; the former backup had quite a season last year, stepping in for the injured Sam Bradford and leading the Minnesota Vikings to the conference championship. Keenum credits some of his success to his work with STRIVR, which he believes is an excellent “supplemental preparation tool,” even for starters. The key word here, though, is supplemental as no technology can ever take the place of work ethic and dedication to the craft.
Even NBA players are turning to VR training, with Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz using VR to help his injury. The former top pick routinely wears VR goggles that help him visualize making plays on the court. But the Sixers brass are banking on something more. They are hoping that VR can fix the broken Fultz, whose injured shoulder has adversely affected his shooting form. In his case, the high-tech goggles will help the explosive combo guard visualize his shooting mechanics and remind him of how easily he shot the ball prior to his injury.
In a world where even the slightest edge is the difference between winning and losing, it is no surprise that athletes and professional teams are finding ways to use VR technology to their advantage. This trend figures to continue, more so with the number of athletes benefiting from VR training seemingly rising.