Playing football is dangerous. Watching virtual reality is ... not.
That’s why STRIVR Labs exists. The Silicon Valley-based VR startup is working with NFL and college football teams to train their athletes virtually, using a headset to help athletes experience game scenarios the same way they do on the field without physically jeopardizing their bodies.
“We’ve seen guys that couldn’t practice because of injury come into VR and put the headset on and actually go through [their] footwork at 10 percent speed,” explained STRIVR CEO and former Stanford kicker, Derek Belch. “[They] really get that one-tenth of the physical rep, but 100 percent of the mental rep. That mental edge is oftentimes what separates the pros from the Joes.”
STRIVR works with six NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, plus the recent NCAA College Football champions, the Clemson Tigers. Not a bad list of clients.
And while training high-caliber athletes is STRIVR’s core focus — these training deals can cost upward of six figures, Belch said — the company is also dipping its toes into another business: Entertainment.
STRIVR has created a goalie simulator, a chance for fans to put on a headset and stand in-net while hockey pros pepper them with slap shots. Three different NHL teams use the technology inside their arenas, and Belch says fans find it to be one of the more realistic VR experiences out there — in part because STRIVR uses actually video footage, not computer-generated graphics, for the demo.
“Ergonomically, you’re doing something real,” he explained. “It’s not a made-up experience.”