Why Virtual Reality Will Change the World of Sports

Before I started investing in Washington sports teams in 1999, I spent years as an entrepreneur, investor and executive at AOL. I still serve on the board of multiple technology companies. My belief in the power of technology has always impacted the way I run sports teams—when I purchased the Washington Capitals more than 15 years ago, I was the first owner to give all the players laptops and email addresses.

The world’s speed of adaption to technology continues to dramatically increase as time passes. Social adoption has compressed dramatically in recent years. People don’t realize it took 10 years for Americans to get online using AOL, but fewer than 10 for Twitter to gain 300 million users and fewer than five for Snapchat to gain 100 million.

These days, younger generations are living their lives online. They play video games, watch video and exchange photos, songs and facts—nothing is static and everything is attached to an online interaction. I believe the next big thing is going to be virtual and augmented reality, and I’m not the only one.

Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Disney are already investing millions in the field, but I see the future of virtual reality going beyond entertainment applications such as gaming and moving towards training and education.

Virtual reality will allow engineers, doctors, manufactures, the military and many others to train in a real-time, interactive and immersive experience. It’s often said that practice makes perfect, so imagine being able to practice in an environment before you must experience it in real life. We are already experiencing the benefits of virtual reality in sports training.

What it means for sports:
Progressive sports organizations are using technology for the health and mental wellbeing of their athletes and for training, which gives those teams a competitive advantage. Recently, we announced the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics would all start using a virtual reality technology developed by STRIVR Labs (Sports Training in Virtual Reality), as a player development tool.

Using STRIVR, coaches film practices with 360-degree cameras, and players can later re-live plays with coaches or on their own time. STRIVR is already utilized by NHL and college football teams, but our teams are the first in their leagues to use it.

When you draft an 18-year-old, you give them a playbook, show them some videos and introduce them to the coach. But the nature of their age and experience level means most rookies won’t actually be playing significant minutes right away. On professional sports teams, each player is a major investment—and brings major risk. You rely on their athleticism, but if you don’t properly develop a player, it sets your franchise back. With virtual reality, our players will be able to practice plays and watch games as if they’re actually on the court or rink.

Virtual reality provides basically limitless opportunities for sports teams that take advantage of it. It’s only a matter of time before this technology is ubiquitous among professional sports teams.

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