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This Week in VR Sport: VR for Training In Basketball And VR At the Gym

Several Washington Sports teams are taking advantage of VR for performance improvement, and getting a workout during a VR experience.

It’s the weekend again, and what better way to relax than by taking in the news on what has happened this week in the wide world of virtual reality (VR) sports in the past seven days? This week, Hockey and Basketball are increasingly making use of VR for training, and VR is encouraging people to work out more.

Washington Sports Teams Using Oculus Rift for Training

Businessman Ted Leonsis is the owner of three sports teams bashed out of Washington D.C, The NHL Washington Capitals, the NBA Washington Wizards and Women’s NBA Washington Mystics. He is also someone who has invested in VR technology for the benefit of his teams. Coming from something of a technology background at AOL, he believes that VR will come to affect everything from player development to spectator experience: “It’s an inevitability, if you will.” he said.

The system used by the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics originated at the Virtual Human Interaction lab at Stanford University and is called STRIVR. STRIVR is now in use by seven NFL teams, three NBA teams, one major league baseball team and the US Ski Team. The various teams are all seeking to enhance their performance using VR technology.

Conditioning in key to performance improvement, which involves, quite simply, doing the same thing over and over again in realistic settings the correspond to the real environment where those skills would be used. The difficulty is that after a certain amount of practice, the body wears down, as practice doesn’t generate the same adrenaline rush as the real thing. Using VR is a potential counter to that, as it can simulate the real environment much more closely, thus generating the same rush and performance improvement.

For owners such as Leonsis who want to develop young athletes, the approach makes sense: “You draft players in the NBA where the kid goes to college for one year and then you put him on your team, and in the old days you’d give him a loose-leaf book with words and scribbles,” Leonsis said. “It looked like geometry homework. And you’d say ‘Well, you’re a rookie and we’ve already got starters and backups and you’re not going to participate very much, you’ll do a little in practice.’ And then we expect these players to get it. And why would we expect that when we’re not even teaching them the right way?”

Get In Shape With the Help of VR

A start-up company in Germany named Icaros have developed a VR exercise machine that allows users to get a full core workout while experiencing a deep sea dive or flying through the air.

Icaros founder Johanner Scholl is hoping to tap into the addictive quality of videogames combined with the immersion of VR to make exercise more interesting and pull users back into the gym time after time: “There’s no comparable thing you can do at a gym,” said Scholl, “I love road-biking and snowboarding, but I love to do that outside. In VR, I love to do stuff which I always dreamt of, but that I can’t do in reality.”

Over 200 gyms worldwide have already installed the VR workout machine, which cost $10,000 (USD) each, though a cheaper version designed for home use is being developed, aiming for a price point of $2,000.

Not all fitness experts are convinced by the technology, however. The fitness industry has tried various high-tech solutions to encourage exercise, such as putting TVs on treadmills, to little avail.

“A lot of this technology is being adopted by people who exercise already and not that much by people who are new to the game,” said Mr Remco Polman, head of exercise and nutritional studies at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. He added that the only real way to enjoy exercising was by sticking with it, rather than trying to use gimmicks or technology.

Only time will tell who is correct in that debate. VRFocus will be there to inform you of the results whatever happens. This Week in VR Sport will return same time next Saturday. Keep an eye on the site for other VR and AR content.

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