Virtual reality has been in the national conversation for several years now, but only recently is the technology entering the sports realm. As reported in Fortune, and later discussed on Syracuse.com, Syracuse football is one of a handful of programs using VR tech for training purposes. In fact, the Orange, UCLA, Ole Miss and Kansas are the ONLY power conference schools using the solution, provided by EON Sports.
Says CEO Brendan Reilly:
"The most value is at the quarterback position, but then you get in front of guys that are offensive line coaches and they're like, 'Wow, if we can have this, we could look at what next week's front is going to be and call out our shifts and what our protections are going to be.'"
And if it actually works, well... it could be a game-changer. If it doesn't? You spent $800 on a way to potentially gain an advantage on your opponents. Sounds like a sound investment -- especially for a program like Syracuse that faces the risk of being over-matched with talent at least a few times per season.
According to the Syracuse.com story, the Orange staff heard about EON from UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who's friends with SU's Bobby Acosta. And though there are just four major programs using it right now, it seems everyone else is right behind them, or at least giving it a year to see if the technology -- which utilizes the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift headset -- makes a marked difference. While there's nothing positive to glean from Kansas's results last year, UCLA and Ole Miss could help give skeptics a better sense of the solution's success (or those teams could just keep winning because they're talented... either/or).
So we'll see whether or not this turns into a significant advantage for Syracuse as the season gets under way this fall. With an ability to simulate actual game speeds and stay true to opposing defenses, it becomes much easier to prepare for what's ahead each week -- even if just from a mental standpoint. Obviously nothing can sub for real life experience and the contact that comes with the game of football. But this could be the first tangible way to at least replace some hard reps for virtual ones.
And for those who want to make a bunch of Tron jokes... here is your moment. Make it count.