Quite a bit of buzz broke out recently in sports circles when a Stanford quarterback was caught on ESPN sporting an Oculus virtual reality (VR) face mask. Not that VR is totally new, but fans want more out of their athletes and the sight of such a souped-up technical edge on the field was a novel thrill. But that thrill won't be novel for long as VR is headed for mainstream use in all sports from pro to little league and T-ball levels.
Just don't let the sight of VR face sets on the field fool you -- it's a training tool and not a real-time, augmented reality honed-edge during the game. That's not to say it isn't a game changer though; after all, Stanford started using VR late in the season and the team had two of its best games shortly afterwards. While this prompts the causation vs correlation debate, few will argue that enhanced training is a big factor in game outcomes.
And when transformative training shows up in a few teams it invariably spreads to others.
"This reminds me of the 1980s when football players started lifting weights; I believe it is Nebraska that is credited with the first weight program," says Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports VR. "Once really huge, very strong football players began showing up to play, other coaches were like Whoa! Where did they come from? And they had to start weight-lifting programs too because, yes, player size and strength matters when you're trying to win. Player size wasn't an issue until a coach made it one though."
"No one innovates for the sake of innovating," he added. "You're forced to innovate and tech is forcing that innovation in sports now."
Just like weight training changed the players and inevitably the game as well, so too will VR and other training tech.