Updated: Jan 18
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Virtual reality has many applications in the sport world if it is in golf, athletics, cycling, American football basketball etc.
It is used as an aid to measuring athletic performance as well as analyzing technique and is designed to help with both of these. It also used in clothing/equipment design and as part of the drive to improve the audience’s experience.
Once the technology is in place, the progression into other applications is only natural. This spring, the University of Kansas launched Jayhawks360 VR, an upgrade to the panoramic facilities tour offered on KUAthletics.com and viewed by more than 20,000 fans since its fall debut. The new iteration creates a more immersive experience compatible with VR headsets, allowing fans to visit any of the Jayhawks' facilities using their mobile devices.
The experience is designed to be updated and improved as technology becomes available, which no doubt will happen more frequently as major technology companies turn their attention — and investments — toward the VR market. Technology giant Intel recently acquired Israeli company Replay Technologies and its 3D technology, which allows for 3-D replays of selected game highlights, giving fans an opportunity to re-watch a play from any angle. Though the technology has been around for a couple of years, under Intel's oversight it will become easier and faster to create the replay clips. "We've installed systems in [select] stadiums for all the leagues," Jeff Hopper, Intel's general manager of immersive experiences, told the Dayton Daily News, adding that sports leagues are also interested in the potential role in game officiating. "It gives you unlimited views anywhere on the field, for any play."
Viewing the action from the player’s perspective
You can expect much to change in the coming months and years, including interactivity, stats and additional info added to the display, as well as on-player camera feeds enabling you to view the action from the eyes of your favorite athlete.
We’ve already seen progress made in this field. Last year, Spanish startup FirstV1sion used its smart wearables to offer player perspective video feeds at several sporting events, including a Euro league basketball match. The garment contains an embedded HD camera and a microphone, plus additional sensors that monitor player health stats.
While a fun concept, player-perspective VR cameras might not offer the best experience, creating dizzying effects when viewed with VR headsets.
VIRTUAL REALITY IMPLEMENTATION
Within VR immersion, the link between virtual and actual environments should incorporate and integrate the interaction between the immersed athlete and virtual opponent/s and or environment
The environment must generate a high level of presence for the athlete to feel immersed within the VE (Barfield, Zeltzer, Sheridan, & Slater, 1995) with external (technology and materials used) and internal factors (psychological aspects) also considered (Slater & Usoh, 1993). For example, in surfing, virtual waves or real recorded 360° waves observed in an HMD must create a full sense, as though you are truly riding on a board along the wave. It is important that other equipment used, such as a skateboard that mimics surfing, is also incorporated to provide that link between virtual and actual environments. Furthermore, for the effectiveness of any VE as a training/coaching tool, it should be realistic, affordable, and validated (Kulpa et al., 2016). Real-time motion capture should therefore be utilised over still-shot cameras to not only provide better interaction and realism, but to also incorporate the viewpoint of the athlete as it happens. Video capture must be recorded at the highest level of recording ability (i.e. 4k) and filmed a high frame rate per second (fps) (60 fps is better than 24 fps) so it is a smooth, clear, and crisp video, rather than a ridged, pixelated video that looks distorted. User control or interactivity is considered paramount to the experience of VR as this directly relates to the level of behavioral realism experienced by the user (Brault et al., 2010; Craig, 2013; Dhawan et al., 2016; McMenemy & Ferguson, 2007). An egocentric viewpoint is vital to gather all the visual information one senses in an actual environment. For successful athlete development, the learning environment needs to be carefully planned in order to improve the athlete’s ability when executing a skill, without encouraging negative training, such as ineffective technique. Lastly, the construct and content validity of the VR environment must be considered, meaning the transfer of skill acquisition is to be measured and validated by success in real-world situations, thereby providing an overall comparison between the effectiveness of conventional versus VR training (John, 2008). In summary, it is imperative to measure the transfer of training from the simulated environment to the real environment. From an athletic performance perspective, head motion perspective of 3D or 360° video displayed by HMDs have been suggested to be advantageous due to the highly immersive, realistic experience of a task (Dhawan et al., 2016). However, HMDs have been suggested to interfere with the physical activity of the user, due to the use of large cables trailing from the headset to transfer the visual data (Miles et al., 2013). Some can be heavy and cumbersome, potentially distracting the user, or hampering their learning by allowing them to become accustomed to performing the activity whilst wearing the device (Miles et al., 2013). The aforementioned units are older and have been superseded by more user-friendly VR headsets without cables. Still, a problem that remains is the inability for HMD users to see their own hands, requiring the use of an avatar, which in turn can lead to issues with latency (Miles et al., 2013). HDMs have also been criticized in cricket batting, with a number of limitations identified relating to collision detection, equipment ergonomics, loss of data signal from trackers, and field of view (Dhawan et al., 2016). Within such environments it is important to minimize constraints on the athlete and allow freedom of movements that they would normally experience during such tasks. VR systems have also been suggested to modify the behavior of the immersed subject by altering their perception and/or actions (Kulpa et al., 2016). As such, VR for sports analysis and skill acquisition does come with limitations like any form of training, and some components do need to be observed/implemented in a real-world setting. The VR training, coaching, and immersion aspects must be chosen with caution and inclusive of the skill acquisition learning progress (conveying information, structuring practice, and administration of feedback) when implementing any VE to study physical activity and athletic enhancement.
Virtual Reality Sports Training
Virtual reality is so advanced that when players put on a VR headset, they feel like they have been transported into an actual game setting. In other words, a baseball player can try to hit a 100 MPH fastball, run the bases, steal home plate and anything else that can be done on the baseball diamond. This allows players to get more out of practices because they are fully emerged in the experience and they can increase their knowledge of the game as well.
The benefits of sports training games include:
Complete safety of the players
Ability to view a play from any angle
Better analysis capability
Possibility to try new plays and strategy without any risk
Allows fans to be part of the action
Problems VR needs to solve
At the moment VR is still in development phase, and it faces problems that are far from unsolvable.
Firstly, it is not that practical and it is not cheap. Stanford research discovered that people tend to get tired of wearing a VR headset in about eight minutes, but expects agree, as anything related to technology, this will change very soon.
When professional athletes will use VR they surely don’t want a big headgear that will be uncomfortable to use. If something can be improved it is that.
Another issue VR faces is not that easy to “fix” and it can cause problems to both athletes during practices and to fans’ game watching experience – the “isolation issue”. People are “alone” when using VR devices since obviously their communication is very limited.
Since social network like Facebook is a big VR investor, naturally they saw virtual reality as a technology with possibility for social interaction through their platform. That is why Oculus developers are working to find a way to incorporate vocal interaction and access to social media networks. In other word they are trying to find a functioning solution for the “isolation issue”. This will allow groups of people to attend social or sport events together, wherever in the world they are or wherever in the world this event is taking place.
Scenarios that this technology will offer really are futuristic. Two Cheesehead-friends from Indonesia could finally attend an NFL game in Green Bay together or father living in London could going to a football game together with his son, living in LA.
Video quality for 360 cameras is still not good enough for a modern eye, spoiled with the HD, but if something grows fast it is technology, so no worries there.
Same as it was situation with data analysis, VR is here to stay and improve sport. And again same as data analysis it is here to improve sport for both “performers” and “fans”.
When Hollywood imagined the future, VR always had a big role in imagining that future. That future is now here and VR’s role is growing fast. It would be foolish to arrive late to the VR party.