Virtual reality has made substantial strides in gaming and entertainment, but there’s another area where the technology could also prove useful: sports training. Kansas City-based EON Sports VR has been working on interactive simulators for football and, now, it’s tackling baseball.
Its latest, Project OPS, uses custom software and a smartphone-powered SIDEKIQ VR headset to train batters about strike zone awareness and pitch recognition through real-time, 360-degree video challenges. And to give this a sense of credibility, the startup recruited Jason Giambi, a 20-year MLB veteran with an American League MVP title, two Silver Slugger Awards and five All-Star badges under his belt.
Aside from being the person to guide you in every batting lesson you take with Project OPS, Giambi, who retired from Major League Baseball in 2014, helped EON Sports VR shape its software by using his expertise to ensure these challenges were as close to real-life as possible. Not only did he test them himself, but Giambi worked with the developers to provide an accurate perspective, from a hitter’s standpoint, of a pitcher’s positioning and movement before, during and after the delivery of the ball. Even though he says Project OPS is geared toward amateur and recreational players, Giambi believes VR-based training could also be useful for pros. « We’ve already talked to a lot of professional teams and they’re really, really interested because we can recreate whoever’s on the mound, » he says. « Whenever we would have scouting reports, you would obviously get a piece of paper… ‘This is what he [the pitcher] throws,’ and then you received video, but all this video was really from behind them… You really don’t get that face-on-face view, where you’re looking at him and he’s looking at you. »
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