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Research on How Virtual Reality Can Improve Sports Performance

Virtual Reality for Sports Skills

New research from the University of South Australia shows how Virtual Reality (VR) can significantly improve the real-world sports skills of players.

The Study

According to a recent press release, the study used the fast-paced sport of table tennis as a case study to assess the table tennis abilities of 57 everyday participants over a series of pre and post-training performance measures.

It discovered that the real-life table tennis skills substantially improved for all participants who had engaged in VR training.

The research is one of the first studies to investigate the transfer of sports skills from simulated to real environments using a head-mounted display.

Using the VR game, Eleven: Table Tennis with HTC Vive head-mounted displays, players competed against a virtual opponent.

They moved and responded to incoming stimuli while receiving haptic, auditory and performance feedback in a 360-degree simulated environment.

Results were compared with a control group, which did not receive any training throughout the intervention.

By nature, table tennis is a sport that requires players to respond in a continually changing, unpredictable and externally-paced environment.

It demands flexibility in visual attention, quick decision-making and fast interceptive actions in response to an interactive opponent. This makes it an effective test sport for VR training.

Lead researchers from the University shared that their findings demonstrate the viability and versatility of VR in contemporary society.

Benefits of using Virtual Reality

Using VR as a training tool is becoming increasingly popular. It is regularly used by surgeons and pilots to hone their skills and techniques in a safe and controlled environment.

VR offers an immersive digital space where users can interact with objects and navigate environments as if they are present in the real world.

For sports, VR opens fantastic opportunities that can otherwise be limited by several factors including:

  1. Costs such as sporting equipment
  2. Logistics such as the need for a training partner
  3. Environmental factors such as adverse weather conditions, or training grounds like ski slopes

In addition, it also allows players to log and monitor their performance and development closely. It also allows them to manipulate virtual space in diverse ways.

Research shows the potential that VR sports training can have in real-world settings.

The real benefit is the ability to learn and practice tasks that may be logistically difficult, dangerous or impractical to do in the real world.

The research also provides a foundation for other VR skills training. Potentially, anybody can benefit from skills training in VR.

In the University’s Cognitive Ageing and Impairments Neurosciences laboratory (CAIN), they are beginning to look at using VR to help people with an intellectual disability to build skills for independent living.

Hopefully, VR can be used in this space to further the notion of skill transfer by demonstrating that people living with an intellectual disability can develop social, cognitive and vocational skills within the safe, comfortable and repeatable environment of VR.

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