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Athletes Look For an Edge in a New Place: Virtual Reality

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Indiana University football coach Kevin Wilson explains virtual reality training to his players.

Some athletes are ahead of the curve in exploring the use of virtual reality technologies for training.

Credit: Gavin Clavio/Indiana University Athletics

Although this may finally be the year virtual reality (VR) products achieve mainstream consumer acceptance, some athletes already have begun to explore the promise of the technology, writes Indiana University Bloomington professor Galen Clavio.

For example, several National Football League teams are using Stanford University's STRIVR system, which provides realistic, repetitive training by visualizing the situations athletes will face during competition.

Regular two-dimensional video often uses a wide camera angle to capture the entirety of a formation or play, and the result leaves players feeling distant from the material they are studying. However, the typical VR video consists of footage from multiple cameras, shooting and recording in sync. With STRIVR, players can put on a VR headset and feel as if they are inside the play as it is taking place. They can repeatedly watch different aspects of looped plays within the VR headset, which can enable them to memorize plays and formations without having to step onto the field.

Clavio notes athletes have a positive view of the technology, although scientists are just starting to evaluate the mental and psychological impacts of VR.

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