As technologies continue to advance, athletes continue to seek new ways to step up their performance and compete on the next level. There are many different technologies that are now available to help athletes train and monitor their performance in real time and the data collected is invaluable to coaches who can then analyze and help improve performance. One of these technologies is known as virtual reality (VR).
Why Virtual Reality?
When people think of virtual reality, often the first thing that comes to mind is the video game experience. Of course, it is much more than that. Virtual reality can be simply referred to as a simulated three-dimensional environment that one can interact with. Virtual reality has been around for some time; however, it is now being utilized in various domains from healthcare to education, and more recently, for athletic training in sports.
The brain is the most important ‘muscle’ to an athlete as it controls every movement the body makes. As much as an athlete can achieve by training to increase endurance and strength, it does not match the value of being in the game, reacting to real-time circumstances. Virtual reality technologies allow athletes to immerse themselves in a simulation imitating reality and by doing so, they gain a significant advantage in the added level of cognitive training.
The single most important benefit that immersive virtual reality offers is the mental and psychological dimension of training. Athletes can only gain so much by sitting and re-watching recorded games of the past. The different pressures and triggers players are exposed to on the field are not the same when passively watching the game back on screen. When players are able to transport themselves to the field and practice in the exact position they usually would, they can actively engage in a play and make effective progress. By doing so there is much potential for improved decision making, reaction time and mental strength.
VR and Baseball
Baseball in one sport where athletes and coaches are beginning to recognize and embrace the potential advantages to virtual reality training. A successful batter must be able to quickly recognize the pitcher’s different motions and instantly react with the bat. Although mechanical aides are often used in training, replicating these exact circumstances is almost impossible outside the real game. With virtual reality, athletes can train with a full view of the baseball diamond and practice as many times as needed facing a more realistic opponent.
VR and Hockey
Hockey is another sport in the process of integrating virtual reality into player training. The term “hockey sense’ is often thrown around when describing a hockey player’s cognitive ability to read the game and respond quickly with accurate. tactical plays. This is a skill that cannot be honed easily outside game practice or for an athlete training individually. Virtual reality training however would be able to simulate these situations, allowing the athlete to focus on improving their reaction time and decision-making skills. With the ability to manipulate a virtual situation in any way, the simulations can also be altered to suit a goal tender versus a defenceman or a forward.
VR and Formula 1 Racing
Not surprisingly, virtual reality is making a huge impact in Formula 1 racing. With virtual reality, teams are able to create realistic driving experiences for drivers without out the cost of burning through a tank of fuel. More importantly, in the risky sport of race-car driving, training through virtual reality allows drivers to avoid the risk of any physical injury. Virtual reality training is being welcomed optimistically in Formula 1 as drivers gain an edge when being able to visualize the track and the experience triggers a reaction similar to in a real race.
Virtual training programs such as Cognilit are a key tool for allowing athletes of various sports to train as if they were in the real game. Cognilit is fully immersive cognitive training program designed to enchance cognitive and visual skills. It was developed using 3D Multiple Object Tracking research which has been shown to improve attention, processing speed, complex movement perception and working memory. These cognitive attributes improve reaction time and decision making accuracy in athletes helping them achieve peak performance.