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Humans and technology

VR is the US Olympic ski team’s secret weapon

January 24, 2018

Virtual-reality job training has found a rather extreme new application: preparing Olympic skiers for the slopes.

The setup: In early 2017, Strivr, the same firm that produces Walmart’s VR training systems, built a program for the team. To create it, Strivr put a 360-degree camera on top of athletes’ helmets and had them ski down Olympic courses.

(Kinda) carving the slopes: The system acts like 360-degree videos on YouTube. It responds to head rotation but doesn’t allow the user to move freely within the virtual environment. It is, however, paired with the SkyTechSport Simulator—an indoor machine that provides force feedback to the skiers.

Mental advantage: Athletes that have used the system feel as though they’ve skied down the courses in Pyeongchang, South Korea, many times before even arriving at the competition. It’s also allowed preparation to continue even when athletes are injured. We’ll have to wait and see if it works.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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