NFL teams test virtual reality at 2015 training camp

A handful of National Football League teams are using technologies to simulate different perspectives analyze player performance.

Among all the talk of rookies, holdouts, fresh starts and, of course, the never-ending Deflategate conversation, there's buzz around a new topic at NFL training camps this year: virtual reality (VR). Several teams in the NFL are testing VR during summer practices in hopes of giving players new perspectives, in-depth data during film studies and a leg up on the competition.

"[Game] tape is extremely valuable, and now you have a new perspective with a new camera angle," says Mark Fidelman, founder of Fanzeal, a social network for athletes, teams and fans, and author of Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social. "There's going to be a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking with this device, and it's only going to increase because the coaches and staff can see everything now."

Virtual reality catches on in NFL

At least five NFL teams -- the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints -- are using Strivr Labs software for VR. Derek Belch, a former Stanford student and football player, founded the company along with one of his Stanford professors.

The Strivr system uses footage captured by 360-degree cameras placed in close proximity to players, and then plays it back via VR headsets. Strivr currently works with Oculus Rift headsets, and they plug into computers that run Strivr's system. The footage is not animated or manipulated; it's actual footage of practices, which Strivr uses to build a library of plays for each team to watch.

[Related Feature: Fan experience key to success of drones, VR in pro sports ]

Belch says the company uses real footage instead of computer-generated imagery because it's much more effective for the players. "[W]hen you watch video games in an immersed environment it's cool, but when trying to train athletes' brains, they will tune out and end up making decisions off of false cues." Gathering and organizing real footage is labor intensive, however, and every recorded play must be manually entered into the system.

The advantage of VR for professional football players is the ability to watch plays in an immersive environment anywhere, anytime, according to Belch. "In the NFL especially, they've stripped away how much time teams are allowed to spend on the field," he says. Players can use [VR] "extensively when they aren't on the field and will be getting reps."

Belch wouldn't share specifics on how much NFL teams pay for the system, but he did say that the company is working on a related consumer product, and the plan is for fans to eventually try it out during games.

Multiple players in the virtual reality game

Another VR company, Eon Sports, partnered with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Eon has several products, but the two main methods used by professional football teams include a video VR device that records plays from one player's perspective to view later, using a Go Pro camera; and Sidekiq, which lets users slide any smartphone into a VR headset and then view computer generated simulations. Both methods use Eon's proprietary streaming engine to deliver footage to smartphones and VR headsets. The company's products work with hardware from other brands, including Oculus Rift headsets and Go Pro cameras, but it also makes its own headsets.

Brendan Reilly, Eon Sports CEO, says scalability is an issue with the Go Pro method because the video only shows one player's perspective. On the other hand, the perspective can be switched from linebacker to wide receiver to quarterback, using computer-generated simulations. In just a few minutes, coaches can create any computer-generated scenarios they want, and players can view them through headsets, according to Reilly. In other words, teams could theoretically convert entire playbooks into VR simulations.

"Our engine breathes life into the Xs and Os," he says, because it also provides analysis of how well players understand the plays. "We know when you're in there at quarterback, if you've executed the throw correctly, and if you threw it on time."

Reilly says the Bucs use parts of both Eon's VR methods. He declined to specific how much the team pays for the system but said the cost for NFL teams generally is between $1,000 and $75,000, depending on usage.

Ultimately, VR will likely be most valuable to players who are decision-makers on the field, such as quarterbacks, linebackers and defensive backs, according to Fidelman. "Anyone that's got to read the offense or defense and make critical decisions in real time will find value from it."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: ABC's Leisa Bacon

In this episode of Conversations over a Cuppa with CMO, ABC's director of audiences, Leisa Bacon, shares how she's navigated the COVID-19 crisis, the milestones and adaptability it's ushered in, and what sustained lessons there are for marketers as we start to recover.

More Videos

Zero proof spiritsUsa since 2011 www.arkaybeverages.com🤪🤟

Sylvie

How this alcohol-free spirits brand rode the health and wellness wave

Read more

okay this a good newsmaybe i gonna try it

kenzopoker1

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 9 July 2020

Read more

Very insightful. Executive leaders can let middle managers decide on the best course of action for the business and once these plans are ...

Abi TCA

CMOs: Let middle managers lead radical innovation

Read more

One failing brand tying up with another failing brand!

Realist

Binge and The Iconic launch Inactivewear clothing line

Read more

I am 56 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease after four years of decreasing mobility to the point of having family dress ...

Nancy Tunick

The personal digital approach that's helping Vision RT ride out the crisis

Read more

Blog Posts

MYOD Dataset: Building a DAM

In my first article in this MYOD [Make Your Organisation Data-Driven] series, I articulated a one-line approach to successfully injecting data into your organisation’s DNA: Using a Dataset -> Skillset -> Mindset framework. This will take your people and processes on a journey to data actualisation.

Kshira Saagar

Group director of data science, Global Fashion Group

Business quiet? Now is the time to review your owned assets

For businesses and advertiser categories currently experiencing a slowdown in consumer activity, now is the optimal time to get started on projects that have been of high importance, but low urgency.

Olia Krivtchoun

CX discipline leader, Spark Foundry

Bottoms up: Lockdown lessons for an inverted marketing world

The effects of the coronavirus slammed the brakes on retail sales in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Fever-Tree’s Australia GM Andy Gaunt explains what they have learnt from some tricky months of trading

Andy Gaunt

General manager, Fever-Tree Australia and New Zealand

Sign in