You can’t yet strap on a virtual reality headset to play Madden NFL. But real pro football players are getting the chance to experience the NFL in glorious VR, at least in Dallas. “America’s Team” recently signed a deal with start-up StriVR labs to bring VR into the Cowboys’ training facility. The move follows an earlier decision to start using drones for filming practices, ESPN reports.
StriVR’s set-up puts a stationary VR camera behind the line of scrimmage and then films the action. Afterward, the team’s quarterbacks, linebackers, and safeties can strap on a headset and experience practice plays in 360-degree VR, complete with sound. The Cowboys appear pretty serious about the effort, dedicating a room at their practice facility to the VR replays.
StriVR’s technology is not interactive, according to Re/Code, but it does allow players to immerse themselves in the action and see in detail where mistakes were made.
So far, Dallas is the only NFL team using the StriVR system, although ESPN says the Atlanta Falcons are also looking at it. StriVR was born at Stanford University and developed during the 2014 football season before being launched as its own company in 2015 by CEO and founder Derek Belch—who is also a former Stanford kicker.
Beyond VR, the Cowboys are also using drones to film special teams practice. The team says the drones provide a better view of all 22 players on the practice field, including fine-grain details like hand and foot placement, and where players’ eyes are looking. All that information helps the coaches get a better feel for what’s going right and wrong on the field. That’s especially crucial for special teams, which often have the responsibility of kicking that game-winning field goal or crucial punt return.
Why this matters: Virtual reality is set to revolutionize almost any field you can think of including architecture, medicine, and the military. Professional football is just one more example. In fact, StriVR’s tech has already proven effective at the college level. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was able to up his passing percentage from 64 to 76 after using VR as part of his regular pre-game prep, according to Fox Sports. If the Cowboys noticeably improve thanks to VR, it’s only a matter of time before other football teams—not to mention other professional sports—follow their lead.