If you read the article that I published yesterday about Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams and his belief that his team’s defense should rival the franchise’ all-time great unit of 2000, which won the Super Bowl and set the modern standard for points and rushing yards allowed per game, then you might say that he is living in something of a mixed reality.
As it turns out, the entire Ravens team is entering something of a mixed reality after the franchise inked a one-year contract to work with a startup tech company called Mixed River, who according to an article in the Baltimore Sun is striving to “push immersive, off-the-field preparation to new levels”.
As you might have gathered, Mixed River deals in some form of virtual reality technology that they refer to as mixed reality. Essentially, their product allows players to wear a holographic head set that will project images of opponents and teammates around them that will simulate real-life circumstances.
Essentially, it will allow Ravens players to get added reps without the need for them to actually be on the field working with other players. Given how limited a commodity practice time can be today, it is likely that many more teams will be opting for a virtual reality solution in the coming years.
Now, this is not a brand new concept by any means. In fact, the Cowboys have already been working with a similar virtual reality simulator called STRIVR since 2015, and it is something that I did write about back then, a bit over two years ago.
One of the main draws of the technology is the safety angle. Taking ‘live’ reps against non-live opponents is obviously going to reduce contact which is going to reduce the frequency of injury, and especially the risk of concussions.
The use of tackling dummies, with the Pittsburgh Steelers being among the teams dabbling in more advanced models, is another way that teams have found ways to find their players additional reps that are both more time-efficient and safer, limiting player contact with one another.
Personally, I like what the Ravens are doing here in adapting a virtual reality element to their training, and I think it is inevitable that at some point all teams are going to do so. There are teams in other sports who have incorporated similar technologies as well.
Such programs can be especially valuable to for certain positions more than others, such as backup quarterbacks, many of whom struggle greatly to see any reps at all. Backups of all positions can benefit from this, of course, regardless of position.
Presumably, it is also something that they can do on their spare time, so they can ‘train’ and ‘practice’ without needing to be entirely immersed on the field with their teammates and coaches. I honestly struggle to find a downside in this.