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Sporting Chance

Virtual reality technology is at the stage where it can make you feel like a sports star - and now international sporting institutes are developing VR programs that might be able to turn you into one.



"Virtual reality is a new way to give people the opportunity to experience first hand how it could be to play against the best players in the world," says Paul Hawkins, the British developer of Hawkeye tennis and cricket virtual worlds.



"Put on the headset and you're immersed in the same virtual world as you see on TV. If you're bowled a bouncer you'll be ducking out of the way. You'll get a whoosh if it comes close to your head."



Ivancevic, a mathematician with a sport science background, is hoping his intelligent, free-moving "human performance engine" will be completed in the next year.



He uses tennis as a model to develop the use in sport for his "game-like" software. "There are two players, one to one, it is a relatively simple game," he says. Ivancevic intends to approach the Australian Institute of Sport to discuss the potential of his software in training when he has completed its development.



Damian Farrow, skills acquisition specialist at the AIS who investigates ways to use technology in training, says the institute is a step back from using virtual reality.



Its use is limited because the images in the virtual world are animated, he says. "You don't actually get the skills transfer you think you might get because it is a different environment."



The AIS uses what it calls "augmented reality" training or "interactive visual simulation", which involves projection of video-recorded images on a life-size screen to assist players in their off-field, off-court play.



"Athletes train exceptionally hard these days. Fitness staff have them training as much as they can in a physical sense."



If they trained any longer they would increase risk of injury or fatigue, says Farrow, and this is where the opportunity for augmented reality training comes in. "They practise in a perceptual way rather than the player being on their feet."

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