Virtual reality training for football players has arrived. STRIVR Labs Inc., a Silicon Valley-based virtual reality (VR) technology company, has developed patent-pending technology that will allow players to get real game experience without being near the field.
Developed and tested during the 2014 football season at Stanford University, the technology has received incredible buzz and already counts the Dallas Cowboys and several major college programs among the early adopters. Football isn’t the only sport that is taking advantage of biomechanical tech.
For example, the Baltimore Orioles partook in biomechanical testing with their pitchers after the 2012 season. Dr. James Andrews’ from the American Sports Medicine Institute used a four-camera system to map out the pitching staff’s throwing action at 1,000 frames per second.
The virtual reality sports trainer works by having players wear a virtual reality headset that provides an immersive, 360-degree virtual reality view of the field. Powered by computer software, the player will be shown video of different in-game situations. The player will feel as if he’s on the field as he goes through the realistic experiences presented through the headset.
The totally immersive view will give him a full perspective of the field and how his teammates are lining up in formation. Players will be able to go through multiple repetitions of specific plays, allowing them to better prepare and recognize defensive shifts by opposing teams.
Founder Dave Belch developed STRIVR as part of his master’s thesis at Stanford, which entailed exploring virtual reality applied to sports training. Belch was an assistant coach with the Stanford Cardinal football team and worked on his thesis under the direction of co-founder Jeremy Bailenson, Professor at Stanford and a world-renowned expert in the field of virtual reality. The pair worked on the technology at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, for which Bailenson is founding director.
The technology was perfected during the 2014 Stanford season while Belch was working on the staff of Head Coach David Shaw. An early investor into the company, Shaw was so impressed with the technology that he made it a mandatory part of his QB’s weekly preparation starting with last year’s bowl game against Maryland, which was won by Stanford 45-21.
Belch had a choice to make at the conclusion of the season: continue his coaching career or develop a business on the technology he had developed. On the advice of Shaw, Belch took the leap and brought STRIVR to market.
Belch presented the technology to NFL clubs at the Indianapolis scouting combine in February. Reviewers came away quite impressed and realized they were looking at the future in coaching and player development. Not only a QB trainer, the technology is highly customizable and can be adapted for other positions. The overriding theme and response from people who have seen it in action has been that it will be a game-changer and truly revolutionize player development.
Check out these quotes from the STRIVR press kit:
“I’ve seen just about everything that’s out there and there’s nothing like this.” –Trent Dilfer, former NFL Quarterback
“This is too good. You’ll feel like you’re left out if you don’t have something like this.” –David Shaw, head coach, Stanford University
“It was one of the few times in your coaching career when you’re watching something and you think, ‘This is a game-changer. This is gonna change the way we teach young men.’” –Brett Bielema, head coach, University of Arkansas
Former NFL and Stanford QB Trent Edwards is also on board as VP of Product and Business Development. Edwards reportedly tried out the software while visiting the Bay Area and came away so blown away that he wanted to come on board. The Dallas Cowboys recently signed on as the first NFL club to adopt the technology and have reportedly devoted an entire room for players to study film through virtual reality.
College teams currently on board include Stanford, Auburn, Arkansas, Clemson, Dartmouth and Vanderbilt.
Entry-level packages are reportedly $250,000, but the company hopes to make it cheaper so it can gain widespread adoption at all levels – high school included. Expansion into other sports could very well be on tap, Belch and company appear well-situated to become the next big thing in athlete enhancement and training.