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The added value of Virtual Reality for coaches, fans and referees

The opening game of this current NBA season ’15-’16 has been filmed by 360° cameras. This might be a breakthrough in watching sports games at home. This way, one can watch Stephen Curry’s clutch performance from centre court seats, sit in the middle of Popovic’ time-outs or just stare at the cheerleader standing on the other end of the action. Without a doubt, this will give a complete new dimension to watching sports events at home, as if you are sitting in the middle of the action. Of course, one needs 3D glasses (see picture), but Google’s 10$ cardboards will definitely speed up the spread of virtual reality experience at home.

360° BSW Weert - Apollo Amsterdam

360° view BSW Weert – Apollo Amsterdam

To explore the possibilities, we have set up a test case in collaboration with the Belgian company VR experience, filming my latest game in the Dutch Basketball League, between BSW Weert and Apollo Amsterdam.

Peter Vanherle of VR Experience: “We’ve built our own cameras at VR Experience to achieve the  quality we were looking for. Our partner Intel has delivered advanced CPU’s to process omnidirectional imagery (30 x HD) in real-time. We’ve developed a platform that allows you to access your VR experience anywhere in the world on any device (web, mobile, apps, …). Importantly for sports events, we can stream from any place at any time. We filmed the game in Weert with a 360° camera at the half court line and a 180° camera behind each backboard.”

The result are these raw images of the 4th quarter of the game BSW Weert – Apollo Amsterdam (30/1/2016):
Please note that the resolution for these raw images is a lot lower because of the limits of Kolor (a YouTube-like platform for VR videos). Right below one can choose for a better resolution if your internet connection is fast enough.

Using your mouse on PC/Mac or your fingers on your smartphone/tablet, one can focus anywhere on any moment in the gym.

The great advantage over well-known systems in sports as Keemotion, is the fact that everything in the gym is captured and can be analyzed. VR Experience created a platform where they can stitch the videos of the cameras and angles in real-time (see picture)! It could be of a huge value for major sports events where every single detail in the arena is captured. I can imagine that a referee commission in major sports leagues would love to have these different angles on any event which happened far from the attention of the classical TV cameras on the ball action including the player’s bench and even to identify fans who misbehave in the stadium. Traditionally, having a lot of camera angles on an event requires a lot of cameras and a bus full of camera men. With this system, a couple of cameras can be installed and all the action is captured! Zooming in, stitching the different views, choosing the angles can be done by one single person afterwards!

3D glasses (Oculus)

3D glasses (Oculus)

Realtime stitching of all camera angles with VR Experience

Real-time stitching of all camera angles with VR Experience

As a sports fan, this will certainly be the future in experiencing sports events at home. Everybody will have center court seats from his couch at home and imagine himself in the middle of the action.

Me as a coach, I am interested in how these new techniques can change the way we analyze games & match-ups and how it can help us teaching our younger players. The great advantage is that one can show videos from the perspective of the player.

If I think of high level coaching, one can prepare his player for his upcoming match-up with for example Lebron James from the angle of the defender. One can really show the images from the point of view he has during the game with Lebron James in front of him and show the fakes and moves he does!
If one analyses a game with his players, one can focus on their decision-making putting them in the same situation again and show the better decisions. One can go back to the same 3 on 2 transition and show your player from his point of view during the game what would have been a better option!
In a next step, one can imagine that an assistant coach is sitting on the bench during the game tagging some key moments on his iPad, which can be reseen in locker room during half-time. How useful is it to zoom from all angles into the sign that the point guard is making before they run setplay that beat you a couple of times during that 1st half?

As a teacher of the game for children it can also be very interesting. If a youth coach explains his kids to be in help defense, making a triangle where he can see and the ball and their defender (Ball-You-Man), we can show our kids what their view should look like! In analyzing a shooting technique, this method would capture the global motion from all different angles at the same time. Afterwards, one can easily view the same motion into the smallest detail from all different angles.

To enhance these applications, ideally, one would have four 360°cameras permanently in the gym which capture all the gym action whenever there is some activity in the gym. Up to the coach to call back the details that make the difference! Coaching is all about selecting and working with the details that make a difference, and with this technology of VR Experience, one can be sure that all the gym action has been captured from every angle!

Links full game BSW Weert vs Apollo Amsterdam (Dutch Basketball League, 30/1/2016):

1st quarter:

2nd quarter

3rd quarter

Please note that the resolution for these raw images is a lot lower because of the limits of Kolor. Right below one can choose for a better resolution if your internet connection is fast enough.

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