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Section: New Results

VR and sports

Participants : Richard Kulpa, Benoit Bideau, Franck Multon, Anne-Hélène Olivier.

Athletes’ performances are influenced by internal and external factors, including their psychological state and environmental factors, especially during competition. As a consequence, current training programs include stress management. In this work [3] , we explore whether highly immersive systems can be used for such training programs. First, we propose methodological guidelines to design sport training scenarios both on considering the elements that a training routine must have and how external factors might influence the participant. The proposed guidelines are based on Flow and social-evaluative threat theories. Second, to illustrate and validate our methodology, we designed an experimental setup reproducing a 10 m Olympic pistol shooting. We analyzed whether changes in the environment are able to induce changes in user performance, physiological responses, and the subjective perception of the task. The simulation included stressors in order to raise a social-evaluative threat, such as aggressive public behavior or unforced errors, increasing the pressure while performing the task. The results showed significant differences in their subjective impressions, trends in the behavioral and physiological data were also observed. Taken together, our results suggest that highly immersive systems could be further used for training in sports.

Among the stimuli, visual information uptake is a fundamental element of sports involving interceptive tasks. Several methodologies, like video and methods based on virtual environments, are currently employed to analyze visual perception during sport situations. Both techniques have advantages and drawbacks. We made an experiment to determine which of these technologies may be preferentially used to analyze visual information uptake during a sport situation [21] . To this aim, we compared a handball goalkeeper’s performance using two standardized methodologies: video clip and virtual environment. We examined this performance for two response tasks: an uncoupled task (goalkeepers show where the ball ends) and a coupled task (goalkeepers try to intercept the virtual ball). Variables investigated in this study were percentage of correct zones, percentage of correct responses, radial error and response time. The results showed that handball goalkeepers were more effective, more accurate and started to intercept earlier when facing a virtual handball thrower than when facing the video clip. These findings suggested that the analysis of visual information uptake for handball goalkeepers was better performed by using a ‘virtual reality’-based methodology.

In a previous work, we analyzed the performance of beginners as they shot basketball free throws using various immersive conditions. Our results supported the assumption that natural complex motor behavior is possible in a VE, with little motor adaptation. The ultimate goal of our work is to design a VE training system for basketball free throws, so in this article we compare the performance of beginners making free throws in various visual conditions (first- versus third-person views using a large-screen immersive display) with that of expert players in the real world [8] . The key idea is to analyze how different visual conditions affect the performance of novices and to what extent it enables them to match the experts’ performance.

Distance underestimation or any other perceptual disturbance in VR makes people adapt to the task at hand. The users in our study reached the same success rate by finding a new way to throw the ball, despite this incongruity between perception and action. The main observations reported in this article reinforce the conclusions in previous work, stating that 3PP is more efficient for certain tasks, but further work is required to test this result against other types of training conditions.

Finally, we worked on a transportable virtual reality system to analyse sports situations [6] . We proposed an original methodology to study the action of a goalkeeper facing a free kick. This methodology is based on a virtual reality setup in which a real goalkeeper is facing a virtual player and a virtual defensive wall. The setup has been improved to provide a total freedom of movement to the goalkeeper in order to have a realistic interaction between the goalkeeper and the player. The goalkeeper’s movements are captured in real-time to accurately analyze his reactions. Such a methodology not only represents a valuable research tool but also provides a relevant training tool. Using this setup, this paper shows that goalkeepers are more performant during free kick with a wall composed of 5 defenders whatever its position.