Hollywood Veteran Disrupting the Sports World Using Virtual Reality
Virtual reality technology may end up impacting the sports industry in a lot more ways than you might think.
Lucas Foster, co-founder of HeadcaseVR gave a brief-but-fascinating talk at the TechFestNW conference in Portland, Oregon on Monday morning, explaining how his company is utilizing virtual reality in the world of sports.
Foster is a long-time Hollywood veteran, having produced or supervised more than 50 feature films including Bad Boys, Crimson Tide, Man On Fire, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Law Abiding Citizen, among others.
Lucas Foster + Other Big Wigs Launched HeadcaseVR
He took entered the entrepreneurial world two years ago, teaming up with four others to launch HeadcaseVR, a virtual reality start-up with offices in Los Angeles and Portland. The company is currently developing VR solutions for clients like Nike and Chevy, alongside a handful of sports leagues and teams that are using new technology to do everything from recruit high schools athletes to establish new retail avenues.
According to Foster, there are two pillars to HeadcaseVR, Technology and storytelling.
“We have two rules at our company: Don’t make people sick and don’t bore them,” he noted.
Technically, HeadcaseVR is innovating in many ways. For instance, the company does some “depth data capture,” using 360-degree cameras and sensors to help teams access new data and analytics, such as how many seconds a football was in the air for, or how fast it was thrown.
“We are taking that data and ingesting it and outputting it in various ways that is useful to coaches and athletes,” Foster said.
HeadcaseVR’s Multiple Initiatives
HeadcaseVR is also working on wearable camera solutions, along with haptic and sensory integration, 3D sound, and “live preview,” which enables directors preview, in real-time, how their footage will appear to a viewer using a virtual reality device.
This technology enables players and coaches review game film in an innovative way, for example. Traditionally, athletes watch video on a flat screen that was recorded from a far-away perch like a press box. Virtual reality changes this and makes for a more intuitive way to review a match.
“I’m not sure you can learn much from watching fairly small objects moving around a field,” Foster said. “We are giving a player point-of-view for game film.”
VR in Sports Competition
Competing with other companies like STRIVR and EON Sports, HeadcaseVR, helps programs like the University of Michigan work with players on a more individual basis. They’ve helped develop virtual coaching applications that let coaches send content to athletes that is tailored specifically to his or her discipline. The overall idea is to “help manage interactions with athletes,” Foster said.
“Unlike what happens now, where a coach talks to a large group of people, they can talk to one guy about his specific issues and help that athlete,” he added.
Headcase VR is also experimenting with eye-tracking technology, which will enable coaches figure out exactly where an athlete was looking during a play, or even infrared cameras that give coaches a better view of on-field incidents.
“Coaches would take it to people’s houses and show them how the University of Michigan would operate its football program,” Foster noted. “It was a virtual tour of an attitude or a feeling. It worked really well.”
Combined with some dramatic music, a quick demo of a reel that shows the perspective of a Michigan football player on game day, from getting off the team bus to walking on the field to rallying together with teammates and coaches in the locker room left a lasting impression on me.
“It’s an entirely new way to communicate with people,” Foster said. ” In trying to trigger an emotion in the viewer, it’s a more effective tool for triggering that emotion — whether it’s fear, sadness, excitement, or whatever. It’s something that you will feel more vividly.”
Retail is another possible use case and Headcase is working with a “famous brand in Portland” — probably Nike or Adidas — to use virtual reality and 360-degree video to improve the buying experience for consumers.
“Imagine instead of just talking to a regular sales associate, it’s LeBron James selling you a pair of shoes and telling you why you should buy those shoes and why he wears them,” Foster said. “You’re having a first-person interaction with him, or any sports star in any discipline.”
Foster insisted about the storytelling aspect of his company’s work, pointing how the “grammar of VR” is so different than any other contemporary storytelling medium considering the perspective and experience for the viewer. “There is an art to this,” he said. “It’s all in the way you put these things together that separates the men from the boys, if you will.”