The weekend rolls around again, and though the weather is growing colder, plenty of athletes are out on tracks and pitches keeping warm by practising and playing, either in ongoing seasons or to keep their form for next season. Virtual reality (VR) season never ends, of course, o we bring you the latest on VR and augmented reality (AR) in sport.
NFL Player Users VR To Aid Rehabilitation
In August of last year an American Football player named Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic injury that almost cost him the use of his leg. This week saw him return to the field after a gruelling rehabilitation process that was aided by VR technology.
While physical rehabilitation is vital, many doctors and scientists have begun to note the importance of mental rehabilitation, something that can sometimes be overlooked. In the case of athletes, this involves keeping the mind on the mechanics, movements and tactics involved.
Bridgewater was using a VR system developed by STRIVR, a company that has formed partnerships with many sports teams, including Bridgewater’s team, the Minnesota Vikings. The system uses 360-degree cameras to capture practice sessions, then players can don a VR headset to analyse the practice in an immersive way.
“I would definitely steal reps with the virtual reality that we do around here,” Bridgewater told reporters from KARE 11 news channel, “Especially when I wasn’t practicing, I would go in and watch Wednesday’s practice, Thursday’s practice and Friday’s practice and, you know, steal those virtual reps and it helped.”
“They actually have a room at the facility to where a player can move around a little bit and feel as if he’s on the field,” STRIVR CEO Derek Belch told KARE 11, “Is he throwing a ball? Is he sweating? No, but he’s doing things at 10, 20 percent speed, going through the mental mechanics along with the physical mechanics that made his brain feel like he’s there.”
ARKit Powers New Fantasy Sports Leagues
Fantasy Teams and Fantasy Leagues have been part of the lives of many sports fans for decades, with entire videogames such as the Football Manager series being built around the concept. Developer ePlay Digital are now looking to give the idea a 21st Century makeover by introducing augmented reality.
The AR title will feature cartoonish replicas of famous sports players, such as Basketball stars Stephen Curry and LeBron James, with the option for fans to take selfies with the AR facsimiles, a feature that has been offered by several other apps.
“They would encounter that player, be able to greet the player, walk around the player, take a selfie with the player,” ePlay CEO Trevor Doerksen told SportTechie, “I think it’s pretty important, these facial gestures, these meaningful moments.”
The ultimate plan, however, is significantly more ambitious, is a fantasy NBA league where players will appear at semi-random locations and can be encountered by players in an attempt to lure them to play for their fantasy team, using mechanics similar to Pokemon Go.
“We started thinking,” Doerksen said, “‘What would the Candy Crush player want out of sports? What would the Pokémon Go player want out of sports?’”