Drones and virtual reality the latest tools in Dallas Cowboys’ arsenal

HTC Vive
Jeffery Van Camp/Digital Trends

While companies like Oculus Rift, Google, and HTC showcase virtual reality for personal entertainment, the Dallas Cowboys are hoping that it will help them win a Super Bowl.

The Cowboys are using drones that can capture 360-degree video of their practices, providing a better perspective of each player. Players later wear virtual reality headsets that show the game video in a special room created at their Valley Ranch facility. The video will also appear on a main screen and will adjust based on where the player is looking.

Coaches will be able to tell if players made the proper reads because they will be able to see things they normally could not see from typical practice cameras such as each player’s eyes, hand placements, and feet. Practices are generally filmed with end-zone and overhead cameras, but a drone overhead filming 360 degrees will give coaches every perspective possible. It will be especially helpful to backup players, who rarely get that kind of hands-on experience.

The technology is from StriVR labs, which makes the software that was developed by former Stanford kicker Derek Belch. It has already been adopted by college teams such as Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, and Vanderbilt. The Cowboys are the first NFL team to adopt such a program, but other teams will likely follow suit. The Atlanta Falcons have already showed interest.

While filming practices will be an important role for virtual reality, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Fans will benefit once the technology makes it possible to stream live games in full 360-degree video. Imagine watching a game from the point of view of being on the field with the players and seeing exactly what the quaterback sees. That will bring a whole new meaning to “armchair quarterback.”