The Washington Wizards Are Upgrading Their Players With Virtual Reality

NBA teams have been harnessing many different technologies to improve their players these past few years, including wearable fitness trackers that deliver rafts of data directly to coaches and real-time stat and positioning cameras such as the SportVU system. Though recently introduced, these gadgets are already proving a little old-hat for some teams.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment has announced a partnership with STRIVR Labs that will see virtual reality technology brought into the arenas of three of its teams, which include the Washington Wizards. Comprised of 360-degree cameras installed throughout a sports venue, the system is expected to add a new dimension to player development by allowing athletes to review recorded plays from any angle.

“We are excited to be the first NBA team using this technology and look forward to sharing it with our players,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman in the press release.

Using a headset with headphones, the tech gives players a new way to analyze plays within the context of a real game. This is particularly beneficial for players seeking a real-game experience when they’re away from the court—on board a plane or bus, for example—turning the simple act of reviewing tape into a realistic coaching session that shuts out a player’s immediate surroundings and gets their head in the game.

They can also review how they move or shoot from multiple points of reference. Bradley Beal told ESPN that he expects this aspect of the tech to help him avoid injury and improve his game. And why not? Ted Leonsis, founder, chairman and majority owner of Monumental argues that this current generation of ballers has been raised on video games, suggesting that virtual reality could prove to be one of the best ways to help basketball players visualize what occurs during a game, not to mention absorb said information.

“We also have a strong core of young fans who gravitate to video and gaming, and we believe this technology will resonate with them and increase their engagement with our teams,” he said in the press release.

Therein lies the other benefit of the Wizards’ virtual reality scheme: the fan experience. The same STRIVR camera set-up could potentially also give fans the VIP treatment with a real-time, first-person view of the action from different angles on the court. While not confirming it outright, Monumental says it will use the tech to offer “an unmatched in-arena and VIP game-day experience”—probably something similar to what Samsung Gear VR has already experimented with during last year’s NBA All-Star Game.

You can expect VR to hit it big, and soon. It’s currently in use by the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals.

After all, sometimes you just need a new way of looking at things.
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