Published on December 4, 2016 by Jake Wilks  

Virtual Reality has taken over the gaming and entertainment world by storm. But now Virtual Reality is making substantial strides in the sports industry. EON Sports VR has already been working on interactive simulators for football, but is now making its way into the baseball world. Their Project OPS uses custom software and a VR headset to train batters on strike zone awareness and pitch recognition. They do this through real-time, 360-degree video challenges. EON Sports hired MLB veteran Jason Giambi to help shape its software, and use his expertise to ensure these challenges are as close to real life as possible. Giambi worked with developers to provide an accurate perspective from a hitter’s standpoint. The software shows pitcher’s positioning and movement before, during, and after the delivery of the ball.

What The Software Offers

Eon Sports VR’s software will provide over 30 sessions in virtual reality. Each session will help players better understand pitches. It will show fastballs, sliders, curves, and change ups. All the pitches that batters could typically seen thrown from the mound. Ultimately players will learn to better recognize the strike zone and perfect their hitting skills to use to their benefit on the field. The software can also emulate exact human throwing motions, as well as ball trajectory. Giambi believes that this software is key for a batter’s mental training. He also describes that a batter’s mental training is vital in their success as a batter.

What it Doesn’t Offer

One thing the software has yet to include is feedback on your swing. Since Project OPS relies on a Bluetooth controller it cannot give you accurate feedback on your swing like a physical bat could. EON Sports however does describe that this is just the beginning and that they plan on trying to develop an actual bat that you can take batting practice with. They believe this could be an affordable solution for baseball players who don’t have access to expensive training machinery, or who can’t make a trip to a batting cage.

RIP-IT Sports

One company however has already made a head start on developing a physical bat that provides immediate feedback. A company called RIP-IT Sports is introducing smartBAT, a baseball and softball training bat that collects real time data with each swing. This fulfills the role of what EON Sports VR’s software is wanting to develop next. Perhaps these two different companies should team up to make the new development even more accurate and advanced.

What smartBAT Offers

The smartBAT spits out real-time data, swing speed and contact analytics to an accompanying synced app on your smartphone. Similarly to Project OPS, the new technology developed by RIP-IT Sports aims to help baseball and softball players improve troubled areas of their games.

How it Works

smartBAT has a miniaturized electronic board, about the size of a quarter embedded in the handle of the bat. They then made an enclosure at the bottom of the bat that resembles any other standard baseball bat. Ultimately the bat functions and feels like any other normal bat, but in reality is more like a super bat. As batters swing the bat data is captured at a rate of 1,000 data points per second and feed into advanced algorithms. The result is a set of metrics that can be used to track increases in performance. These metrics can be viewed on your phone, computer, or note pad.

Batters Need All the Advantages They Can Get

In the past decade baseball has been a game widely dominated by untouchable pitchers. For years the sport has seen batting averages drop and the number of no hitters and perfect games increase. Today, more and more major league teams are looking for powerhouse hitters like Jason Giambi was in his time. Teams are starting to put a greater focus on players that will provide a spark for their offense, and send homeruns soaring over centerfield. With the new technologies of smartBAT and EON Sports, perhaps the day is coming where baseball will shift to be a sport dominated by batters. One thing is for sure, if these new technologies do prove to be an advantage for batters, the old ways of training will be changed forever.

This Blog Post was written by Samford University Student Jake Wilks.