Associated Press

After using virtual reality (VR) for the last two seasons for player training, the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team is bringing it to the fans.

In a partnership between Cox Communications, STRIVR and the Cardinals, fans attending Cardinals home games at University of Phoenix Stadium will be able to get a VR experience of the team’s locker room and field at the Cox Connects VR Huddle.

“What we bring is unique virtual reality content that you can only get at the Cox Connects VR Huddle,” Suzanna Schlundt, the vice president of marketing of the West region for Cox Communications, said in an interview with R&D Magazine. “When you get in the chair, you put on the goggles and you will actually be part of the huddle.

“We’re just really excited about the ability as a technology company to provide a great technology experience in the stadium,” she added. “The Cardinals stadium happens to be air conditioned, so a lot of people get there earlier and you are looking for engaging things to do.” 

With the VR experience, fans are able to take a virtual tour through the Cardinals facility, including wondering through the locker room, running through the tunnel onto the field and getting in the huddle with the likes of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and Patrick Peterson.

Cox has been the official technology provider of the Cardinals and have now partnered with STRIVR—who has provided VR training tools for the team since the 2015 training camp.

Fans initially will be taken through training camp and preseason plays but Schlundt said the VR film will be updated as the season goes on.

Schlundt explained that the aim of the experience is to give fans something extra that they won’t get anywhere else.

“Virtual reality is growing in popularity and while some people are very familiar with it, it is very new to others,” she said.  “Even if you have virtual reality goggles at home, you don’t get access to the Cardinals training footage unless you go to the Cox experience.

“That really is the magic,” she added. “It is the combination of virtual reality, plus this unique Cardinals-centric experience that you just can’t get anywhere else unless you suit up as a Cardinal player with the helmet on.”

VR for training

Derek Belch, the CEO of STRIVR, said in an interview with R&D Magazine that the team has also  gained an advantage using virtual reality for training purposes.

“We provide them with the tools, the hardware, the software, support for mainly their quarterbacks, but also linebackers and other positions to use VR to get additional mental reps,” Belch said.

Belch explained that the VR experience gives players a firsthand look at the development of a play that traditional film, often shot from 50 feet in the air, does not.

The training tool is particularly popular for Cardinals Quarterback Carson Palmer, who is entering his 14th season and seeks to get more mental reps in without putting a physical toll on his 37-year old body.

STRIVR, which was founded in January of 2015, currently provides VR training tools for seven NFL teams, 13 college football teams and one high school football team, allowing giving teams extra instruction without having to put on the pads and also better study guides on certain packages they may face.

“We usually give the team a roadmap and it’s on them to decide how they want to incorporate it,” Belch said. “A lot of teams will script and really choreograph the looks that they want to put in there.”

Along with football, STRIVR provides VR tools for industry training for companies including Walmart and United Rentals.

Belch played one year as a kicker on the Stanford football team under Jim Harbaugh and coached at Stanford as a graduate assistant for two years under David Shaw. It was after he wrote his master’s thesis on how virtual reality can be used for football training that Shaw convinced him to leave coaching and start a company.