VR simulators recreate pressures of sports to improve outcomes

[From the Guardian]

Davidn Beckham misses

[Image: England’s David Beckham misses a penalty against Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarter-final at Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz. Photograph: Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters]

Virtual reality simulators could end England’s penalty shootout woe

  • Technology can recreate pressurised situations for footballers
  • BAE Systems and UK Sport’s project to help Olympic hopefuls

James Riach
Friday 23 August 2013

Virtual reality simulators could be the solution to end England’s penalty shootout woe in major tournaments, with plans to replicate the pressurised atmosphere of a packed stadium potentially coming to the aid of players.

Technology is being developed by engineering company BAE Systems, in conjunction with UK Sport, to assist a number of Olympians and Paralympians in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Games and beyond, with a taekwondo simulator able to create virtual fights already being worked on.

Other combat sports such as boxing will benefit most from the simulation but Dr Scott Drawer, who leads UK Sport’s research and innovation team, revealed that football could also benefit and a penalty shootout scenario could be created in the future.

Drawer said: “Think of taking a penalty kick in a World Cup, that stressful environment. If you can replicate that so you can take a penalty kick better through simulation, you may be better prepared.

“People always say you can practise penalty kicks, but you cannot practise going into the environment where there are 100,000 people and you’ve got to score. You can create these learning experiences.

“Rugby – if you’ve got to take the winning kick in 2015, you’ve got thousands at Twickenham and you could beat the All Blacks but you’re as far away as possible. Learning to deal with those situations is really hard to replicate.”

A number of people in recent years have argued that practising penalties is an exercise in futility, with the pressure situation of a shootout impossible to replicate. However, Dr Drawer says that while this is true, any assistance could be beneficial.

“You can never get it down to a tee because when people get into a competition their physiology changes and is different to training,” he said. “But it’s better than doing nothing.

“At the moment we’re only working on Olympic and Paralympic sports but you can see the potential. You could recreate noises and sounds and make it feel real, the walk up. Hologram technology is out there but probably about five or six years away from an interactive scale.”

On combat sports, he added: “To go and fight someone in Cuba who fights a particular way and never wants to fight you. How do you learn to prepare against that when you can’t actually do the real thing? You can use a computer simulation, imagine some of the Nintendo Wii-type games where you have to react and respond to things. Coaches can use that technology to help prepare athletes for something that may happen.”

UK Sport announced a continued relationship with BAE Systems on Thursday, with the company working alongside the government organisation and providing 18,000 engineers able to develop cutting edge technology that will improve medal chances at future Olympics and Paralympics.

A new wheel that will improve the acceleration of Great Britain’s wheelchair racers was also unveiled, with the Paralympic silver medallist Shelly Woods describing the technological advances as a “huge boost”.


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