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NFL Tests Virtual Reality at Stanford Labs

The Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University, has previously been covered by VRFocus for its trialling of phobia reducing virtual reality (VR). Now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been giving the technology a try to see how VR experiences could help training and officiating in the NFL.

Reported in the Stanford News, Goodell tried one of the VHIL software experiences which uses the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD), where users stand on a virtual plank of wood as the floor disappears underneath into a pit. Goodell said: “We’ve got a problem here,” as he struggled to maintain his balance on the visit. “I believe that you did not open a real hole in the floor, but there’s no way that I’m going to step off.”

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While Goodell and a contingent of NFL executives were impressed, their main focus was how VR benefits the NFL. Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of the Stanford lab has been collaborating with Stanford’s football team to help develop the project, which enables quarterbacks to repeatedly read defences in the injury-free space of the simulator. Bailenson and his team found that quarterbacks managed to improve their decision making by 30 percent and made those decision quicker by up to a second.

Goodell is also interested in using the technology to improve the experience for fans as well as the players, saying: “This could let us give fans an experience that only players and coaches get,” by creating sideline views.

VRFocus will continue to report on the progress of the VHIL and VR’s expansion into the world of sport.