Kreigs-Ballok VR practice field closer to reality

The Baltimore Ravens, or the Ionath Krakens? After learning about this story, I’m not sure I can tell “scifi” apart from “modern day.”

This year the Ravens will be using “mixed reality” as part of their game prep. What is “mixed reality?” It is projecting an artificial image onto a real surface. In this case, the Ravens are using VR goggles on the practice field so their players can see representations of opposing teams. The VR players will move at the same speed as their real-life counterparts, giving Ravens players an accurate representation of opposition movement, while at the same time reducing the amount of hits player take when facing real-life practice opponents.

In the Galactic Football League series, teams use “Kreigs-Ballok VR practice fields” to get a one-hundred-percent accurate representation of opposing offenses and defenses. Scifi, right? Not anymore.

Check out a demo of this technology in the video below. Keep in mind, the field itself is real. The view of the artificial players changes based on where the person with the VR lenses moves and looks.

The company providing this technology is Mixed River, out of Towson, MD. The company is using Microsoft’s Hololens to achieve this impressive feat.

Or watch this video on this page from the Baltimore Sun to get an idea of how amazing this tech is.

If you don’t know football and think, perhaps, that this looks silly, let me give you some info. Much of football is preparing for what the other team will do. Tendency analysis is a huge part of any gameplan — if you know with a certain degree of accuracy what your opponents will do in a given situation, you can disguise what you are doing in hopes of exploiting a weakness.

That applies to the overall team strategy, but also to the individual matches. If you are a cornerback, for example, (like Cormorant Bumberpuff of the Ionath Krakens), you will do better if you know the typical route-running patterns of an opposing receiver. Until now, there were two ways to do this: a) in a live practice, have a practice player try to emulate the opposing team’s player, or b) sit your country ass down, watch film and study scouting reports. The biggest problem with using practice-squad players is that they can’t accurately emulate the speed and reaction time of the NFL’s top stars, because if they could, they probably wouldn’t be practice-squad players — they would likely be starters in their own right.

Now enter c) go out on the practice field and see it happening live with mixed reality. Bumberpuff is actually moving, reacting to what he sees, and the information is adjusting according to his position and field of view. Bumberpuff can run the plays over and over again, without experiencing any contact (knowing that all contact carried the potential for injury).

And with mixed reality, if the data input is good enough, you’ll see speed- and reaction-accurate representations of the players you’ll face that week. I italicized that part above because I know some people will say: VR can never be as good as real-life. True, but not when it comes to speed. Getting accurate representations of speed and the moves of a particular player could help players properly prepare for what they will face on Sunday.

NFL players are worth a fortune. Keeping them from being hurt is a wise financial investment. Reducing the amount of head trauma is vital. While mixed-reality practice doesn’t eliminate practice-based contact, it could help mitigate it quite a bit.

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