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How VR is Changing Sport

by Beth Divine 23 Feb 2018

Olympic athletes have embraced what many dismiss as being a mere entertainment tool. Virtual reality is allowing sportsmen and women to train in realistic feeling conditions. Winter sports stars often don’t have access to snow year-round, not without incurring vast travel expenses and needing to be away from home for months at a time. Thanks to virtual reality technology – usually teamed with simulators for authentic feeling movements and reactions – skiers and snowboarders can keep in tiptop condition, even in hot countries.

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It is not only winter sports that have benefitted from virtual reality technology. All the major hockey, baseball, basketball and American football teams have made use of the technology to give their players an edge. Using virtual reality means that they can project the players into a world where they can try harder without realising – they can ‘run’ up steeper slopes by using more resistance in the simulator and be more engaged in the virtual environment than they might be when simply using regular gym equipment. By training in a virtual environment, exercises can be made more fun – instead of lifting weights, the sportsmen can be playing a game in which they have to lift heavy objects, like virtual hay bales, Christmas presents or even cartoon people – anything goes in the virtual world!

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Athletes can also easily gain virtual access to stadia and arenas that they can’t physically train in – or even access until the match or competition due to security reasons or logistical issues. Imagine being able to play your sport of choice at world famous venues, not as a once in a lifetime competition but on a regular basis until you are familiar with every nook and corner of the place – your game is sure to improve with that familiarity with the venue.

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When athletes are injured, rehab from injuries often has to take place in their own time. With virtual reality, they can start off easily, slowly increasing their stamina and strength until they are back up to optimum strength. While they might not be able to access training fields, they can use a virtual layout to work out on the same equipment as the rest of the team, which can mean that their rehab can be undertaken with confidence that they are working to the right standards.

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With virtual reality more athletics can access to courses and pitches year-round, without having to make advances bookings and wait for a few precious moments at the desired venue. Imagine all boxers being able to immerse themselves in the feel of Madison Square Gardens, golfers being able to visit all the PGA championship courses, and football and baseball players being able to play on world famous courses to see how they fare. It is known that practise makes perfect, but practise also gives confidence – which can add precious seconds to be shaved off personal bests and world records.

Being able to train and play at the best sites in the world mean that athletes – from everywhere – can make the most of their training and preparation. And that will result in more exciting contests for the rest of us to watch!