All athletes know that success in sport requires both physical and mental preparation. Visualising the finish line, the perfect jump, or that javelin soaring into the distance are some of the psychological techniques used by pros to help put them in the right mindset for an event.
But how can you picture yourself crossing the finish line on a track half the world away that you’ve never seen before? Competing in unfamiliar locations can affect athletes’ performance: while they may know every inch of their home training grounds, new stadiums can throw them off their game. Rarely is this more daunting than at the Olympics, when the whole world is watching.
To combat this and help bring a home-away-from-home advantage to Brazil, Team GB’s athletes are using virtual reality to familiarise themselves with Rio’s Olympic venues.
VR-Vantage is a joint project by defence company BAE Systems and government organisation UK Sport. By recording 3D footage of the venues and playing them through the latest virtual reality headsets, athletes are given a 360-degree simulations of course layouts, providing them with a fully immersive experience ahead of competitions.
The idea is to help the athletes get to know the environments they’ll be competing in. By playing through every twist and turn of a circuit before the Olympics, they’ll be more confident when they face the real thing.
Simon Timson, Director of Performance at UK Sport explains, “Familiarity and practice in the competition environment, whether real or virtual, breads confidence in athletes. The advantages of virtual training should not be underestimated in the pursuit of excellence. This adaptation of new technology allows us to digitally bottle that experience for elite athletes and help them perform at their best. Every extra benefit we can offer our athletes ahead of elite competition is significant, so this innovative application of 3D Video and Virtual Reality technology should provide an advantage in helping athletes familiarise themselves with new courses.”
The ability to map out detailed tracks and courses make the VR-Vantage most effective for sailing, canoe slalom and triathlon preparation, as well as the bob sled, skeleton and ski slalom in the Winter Olympics. Henry White, Technology Partnership Lead at BAE Systems said: “VR-Vantage adapts existing technology in a short time frame, and can be integrated into athletes’ training schedule quickly and seamlessly. Technologies that BAE Systems are developing for aircraft inspection and operator training have been utilized in an affordable manner, allowing roll-out across a large number of sports. The system will complement the comprehensive training and preparation by our athletes and give them the best possible opportunity for success.”
The VR-Vantage is a huge leap forward from the current use of 2D footage and still imagery, and use of the system could soon become standard practise for athletes preparing for major competitions.
Keep your eyes on Team GB at Rio to see if VR training manages to help our athletes get their hands on gold this summer!
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