Football and virtual reality don’t sound like two things that go together very well. Sports are active; virtual reality is just starting to get a reputation outside of mere entertainment. Now, the two of them are coming together thanks to Derek Belch, Stanford football’s 2007 kicker, and Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. They founded STRIVR Labs from a desire to improve the way football players prepared for upcoming games.
STRIVR, which stands for Sports Training in Virtual Reality, uses 360° footage to immerse a player into the action. A common method to prepare for games in sports like football is to study film—watching recorded footage of previous games. STRIVR takes this a step further and puts a quarterback in the point-of-view of a real-time formation. They are able to catch details in the defense they weren’t able to during the heat of a game, and thus adapt in future games.
Football isn’t the only sport that STRIVR Labs aim to make athletes better in. Baseball players can watch pitches. Basketball players can shoot free throws. Hockey players can watch their own skate work. Not from the vantage point of a random courtside camera or a blimp flying above the football stadium, but from the perspective of where the action is. David Shaw, Stanford’s head football coach, has called the technology a “game changer,” and professional sports teams who have started to use STRIVR in their training have proclaimed their confidence in the technology.
What This Means for You and Me
It’s not hard to imagine that something that can change the way athletes train could become a beneficial tool for the rest of us. While our own training regimen may not mean having to study 171 plays in five days, there are many reasons why we should train like athletes outside of looking good. A big part of having an effective workout, though, is improving on where we were the last time we stepped into the weight room or onto the track. But if we don’t have the resources of a professional athlete, how would we be able to know where to start?
The answer lies in virtual reality. In the same way that watching repetitions can help a quarterback make positive changes to his footwork, watching footage of ourselves can go a long way into seeing what we are doing wrong and taking the necessary measures to keep from hurting ourselves. How can you get to a perfect pull-up if you don’t know if you are arching your back? Do you have a problem keeping your fists up during your boxing class? Are you squatting low enough? Are you pumping your arms when you run?
This is the other reason that you see people with their phones out at the gym, and it doesn’t have anything to do with selfies. We may never be Joe Montana or Michael Jordan, but using virtual reality, we can keep from stagnating in our fitness.
Have you seen a really cool VR experience that you thing we need to know about? Leave a comment below so we can check it out!