Sporting Virtual Reality

So far as part of our spring series on Virtual Reality, I’ve shared interviews with VR software and equipment specialists. How about some perspective from a VR scientific researcher? And even better, one exploring VR and sports? 😉

Here’s an interview with researcher Daniel Mestre, member of the French Association of Virtual Reality and head of the “Immersions Group” at the Marseille Institute of Movement Sciences, CNRS and Univmed.

Questions I asked:

  1. What work are you doing with virtual reality and sports?
  2. Who are the people who will benefit the most from this work, athletes, doctors or sports equipment manufacturers?
  3. Do you think that sports will evolve to a level where athletes use VR applications while exercising their activity?
  4. What’s the future of virtual reality? (My pet comparison question.)

Here’s the translation/transcription:

Q1: What work are you doing with virtual reality and sports?

We want to understand how athletes behave, and we use virtual reality to create situations where we can study human behavior in sports. That’s the fundamental aspect. More precisely, we’re studying virtual training for athletes. And we’re also exploring how, through virtual reality, we can inspire men and women who aren’t physically active to exercise again.

This is a VR topic that’s pretty developed now, especial in Anglophone countries like the US, and it’s starting to spread in Europe. Here we’re trying to couple, for example, gym equipment with virtual content that motivates people to get active. We’re starting to orient our work targeting obese populations to help motivate them to get in shape.

For example, is it more motivating for someone to distract them from the exercise at hand? Or is it more motivating to encourage them with biofeedback? Virtual reality is interesting for these classic questions because it allows us to externally study a process that’s typically internal.

Q2: Who are the people who will benefit the most from this work, athletes, doctors or sports equipment manufacturers?

I think it’s all three. We need doctors to help us develop a process of re-adaptation. It would be illusory to think that by magic virtual reality will resolve our problems. Equipment manufacturers are interested in the work to help them bring new products to market. I think athletes are already benefiting from it. For example we’re working on a project about virtual cycling training. A cyclist living in a flat desert region can virtually train for an upcoming race in the mountains, although this remains elitist.

There’s a fourth group of beneficiaries to our work and that’s coaches/teachers, students and people developing VR sports applications. A big part of our activity is working with physical education students, exposing them to the possibilities that virtual reality and training provide.

Q3: Do you think that sports will evolve to a level where athletes use VR applications while exercising their activity?

I’d say we’re not there yet, but then again we’ve already introduced it as video arbitrage during ball games. Otherwise we’re starting to see athletic trainers explore using virtual reality for coaching team sports, although it’s an old idea for us. So rather than drawing positions and strategies on a chalkboard, they’ll produce them virtually.

But are we going to invent virtual sports disciplines? I don’t know how to answer that question today.

Q4: What’s the future of virtual reality?

It’s brilliant and polymorph!

Merci Daniel!

Stay tuned for more . . .

Best,

Kate

P.S. If you’re new to our series, previous posts include:

Virtual Reality Series: Interviews & I Spy
Live from Laval Virtual Day 1: R-Screen
Day 2 @ Laval Virtual = Fire
Day 3 @ Laval Virtual: Ergo Wide 3
Equipping Our VR Future

P.P.S. You may also enjoy this VR sports application: Spinning into Virtual Reality

  • Excellent article, Added to my bookmarks – I have to link it to my friends