Washington Wizards, Caps Enhance Game-Day With STRIVR Labs Virtual-Reality Technology
The Washington Wizards and Capitals, owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, are utilizing STRIVR Labs virtual reality technology to visualize the game experience (Monumental Network video). Video content on the court and the ice is gathered by the virtual reality cameras and then used by the players and coaches for training purposes. The 360-degree views captured by the cameras are also being used to curate footage for enhancing fans’ game-day experiences. The Wizards, Capitals and Mystics are the first in the NBA, NHL and WNBA, respectively, to utilize the technology.
The Wizards and Capitals use STRIVR’s cutting-edge technology to maximize the players’ abilities to visualize game and practice experiences and to help coaches and players analyze plays and information. Using a headset and headphones, the teams continue to find ways for players to use the new technology to improve their mental timing and performance without requiring them to be on the court or the ice. Players are able to see 3D video replays from an on-court or on-ice perspective, reviewing that play from a 360-degree viewpoint.
The Wizards have begun implementing the team’s playbook into the STRIVR software so that players can experience both walk-through and game-speed interactive versions of the team’s offensive and defensive sets. Various in-game scenarios (e.g., double-teams and late-game situations) also will be replicated in order for players to better prepare and visualize proper concepts. Players are able to view shooting techniques from both a first- and third-person perspective, allowing them to see their form, study the form of other players, and use repetition to practice and perfect their touch. The technology will allow the team to keep injured players mentally engaged during recovery as well as bringing new players up to speed more quickly. The Wizards also have plans to build a catalog of immersive motivational experiences that can be used year-round.
“STRIVR’s software is a fantastic teaching tool that allows us to reach our players in new and exciting ways while enhancing the current programs we have in place for player development,” said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. “Our staff has shown great ingenuity and creativity in finding applications for the virtual reality system, and our players have responded with enthusiasm about the technology.”
During this season the Capitals will continue to gather footage with STRIVR Labs virtual reality cameras during practices and explore different ways to capture on-ice footage that can then be used by the players and coaching staff. Already this year the Capitals were able to gather footage during goaltending drills from the vantage point of the goaltender and the shooter, skating drills from center ice and power plays from the vantage point of the center and penalty killer. The footage was particularly interesting to the goaltenders, who were able to watch their own footwork and positioning. In general, players were able to gain a new, more accurate vantage point of their practice drills during a team filming session. The immersive virtual technology allows the Capitals players to process information and make mental in-play reads by watching it on a headset.
“We feel it is important to be a forward-thinking organization and continue to evolve with new technology,” said Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan. “STRIVR’s virtual reality is a helpful tool for our team and has the capability to be a powerful teaching method. We look forward to continuing to experiment and find ways to implement virtual reality training with our players.”
The virtual reality technology will also enhance the fans’ game-day experiences in the Etihad Airways Lounge at Verizon Center by featuring Wizards and Capitals team content. Fans will experience 360-degree views of the Wizards at center court during the national anthem, team huddles and more. Capitals fans will have the opportunity to make their dream a virtual reality by skating among NHL players and stopping pucks from Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment, under Ted Leonsis’ leadership, has become a pioneer in the use of technology for the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics, Verizon Center and Monumental Network. The teams have embraced the use of technology to further connect with fans and to enhance the game-day experience with the most recent advancement being the STRIVR Labs virtual reality technology.
Earlier this year Leonsis lead the Mystics to participate in an analytics scrimmage against the Minnesota Lynx to cross-pollinate the use of analytics from the NBA to the WNBA.
Monumental Network launched in 2013 and provides fans with exclusive, original content and video programming and serves as a digital content platform for fans and customers in the D.C. region and around the world. The Network includes numerous websites and blogs that are associated with MSE’s three professional sports teams, Verizon Center, EagleBank Arena, and Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Verizon Center installed 10,000 square feet of full-motion, out-of-home digital boards in 2013, and in 2014 the arena became the first venue to test iBeacon technology with 200-plus iBeacons currently in use. Recently 13 additional LED signs and a new ultra-high resolution LED video wall were also installed. The LED video wall, the first of its kind to be used in a sports setting, is featured at the main entrance to the arena and sits at 19’ 1’ wide by 5’ 10” high.
The Wizards were the first NBA team to distribute iPads to players that contained the team’s playbook and in 2009 started using Game Time Concepts software for analytics purposes. During the 2011-12 season SportsVU cameras were installed at the arena, and in 2015 the Wizards became one of the first two teams to use the Sportstec Integration service that combines the data points from the cameras with everyday video use by the coaches and players. In 2014 the Wizards staff became one of the first two teams to utilize PlayerLync, a video iPad solution for scouts, videos and playbooks.
When Leonsis purchased the Capitals in 1999, he provided players with laptops and encouraged players to interact with fans online. The team experimented with an interactive camera underneath the scoreboard that allowed fans at home to take pictures of the arena during games. The Capitals were also the first team to host a podcast, Caps Report in March 2002, and in 2003 the organization was among the first professional sports teams to travel with a team writer and videographer. The Capitals website was ranked No. 1 in all of sports by Sports Business Journal and No. 1 in the NHL by Forbes. In April 2015 the Capitals launched a 24-hour audio channel called Caps Radio 24/7, devoted specifically to the Capitals and NHL.