Manchester-based virtual reality (VR) company Mi Hiepa have been working on finding the best solution for athletes to enhance their skills through VR. Beginning with football and tracking the whole movement of the foot in order to get data about players as they take part in a series of drills. Collecting data about their reaction time, their foot bias, creating benchmarks for players and creating and tracking the rehabilitation of injured players. As well as helping communications between the coach and manager. At the moment Mi Hiepa is a business to business (B2B) solution for professional players However, in this interview with VRFocus, Development Director Adam Dickinson hints at exciting future prospects.
The first thing Mi Hiepa does is create a profile for the player. Collecting the player’s shoe size and recording absolutely everything it can. Dickinson explains that it has to be accurate, and no latency is allowed. Everything the player does with their feet is recorded and tracked. Analysing a player’s skills and creating a benchmark that can push players to become better.
At the moment Manchester United Academy have been using it for the past seven months. Mi Hiepa is having over 40 conversations with teams globally. Dickinson explains that when it comes to the Premier League the biggest problem they’ve had to combat is bad experiences some players have had with VR through 360 degree films. It takes time to convince them to try it on and that’s why they haven’t gone for a full suite solution. Instead players should be able to jump in and out quickly. So far reactions have been positive, with clubs surprised at when the Mi Hiepa has shown a player to perform differently during a drill.
Dickinson believes that professional elite players will most likely try and purchase it and bring their solution into their home. Noting it is not unusual to see two to three players staying behind to do extra training using it. He believes their solution gives players and clubs that extra edge, that extra one percent to make them the best based on untracked data.
Mi Hiepa covers a number of different categories.
Re-playing the Match in VR
Dickinson explains that putting the coach, manager and player into VR can help with conflict management. Disagreements over what happened in a match can disappear if presented with a thorough record of what did happen and lessons learned from it, with data then used to create situation-based drills based on scenarios the players have come across. How do the opposing team take their corners? Which player is most dangerous on the pitch and who passes to them on which part of the field? These are but a couple of examples as to ways the data could be used.
All of this can be shown in VR on a standalone headset, such as the Vive Focus.
Training and scouting talent
Dickinson hopes that as VR technology develops that they’re able to democratise football scouting. A young boy who only had an hour at the Manchester United Academy was put into the drills and his data was compared to the top players on the Academy’s team and was taken onboard based on his profile. Traditional football scouting methods have a scout watch a player play four to five games. However, in those games the player may not touch the ball or have been played out of position. By putting players through the drills in Mi Hiepa, scouts might be less hesitant to reject a player if they look at the player’s profile.
Using a top player’s profile can also be used as a benchmark to train younger players. Dickinson also explains that whenever a player puts on the headset, this data can be used to help with the transfer money of a player between teams. Is that player worth the money? Can insurance companies use this data to bring premiums down at club level?
The potentials are vast, and certainly make training and drills a lot more accessible. Instead of a two million pound training centre, a team can now utilise a smaller space without the need for additional equipment just by utilising VR headsets.
When an injured player uses Mi Hiepa, he really sees the benefits for players when it comes to mental health. A player might not be able to touch a ball for eight months, yet the sport is a combination of their trade. love and passion. An injury can have a massive impact on a player’s mental wellbeing.
Mi Hiepa has developed special rehabilitation methods for players to keep them mentally trained, and players can keep training without ever touching a ball. Players can keep up their sharpness and visual acuity so when the player goes back on the field they’re mentally prepared. As VR develops, Dickinson believes that these exercises will be usable across all sports in future and for all levels of consumer.
Incorporating eye-tracking and future sports
There are many future benefits for Mi Hiepa that aren’t only rehab and drills. Mi Hiepa are looking at potentially working together with Dr. Sherylle Calder, a pioneer in eye tracking and who uses it to train the eye response and reaction times of Formula One drivers. Dickinson also notes that the rehabilitation exercises athletes do for cricket or basketball for example are identical to their training scenarios.
Mi Hiepa are also looking to incorporate Tobii eye-tracking, which in turn could help coaches and teams to passively analyse and track concussions in contact sports.
It’s evident that Mi Hiepa want to revolutionise the way athletes, teams and coaches interact with one another in sports. Their data can be used for scouting, training, tracking and with the future of VR advancing consoles could potentially be able to have a mode of Mi Hiepa on them within two years.
You can find out more in the interview below.