Toshiaki Imae using the new VR system
Global IT service provider NTT DATA Corporation and Rakuten Baseball, Inc. announced Wednesday they will launch a new virtual reality (VR) baseball coaching system in Japan in 2017, and that they subsequently plan to offer the service globally.
Developed using NTT DATA’s VR technology, the system uses a database of professional players’ videos and performance statistics to generate high-quality simulated video images.
Rakuten Baseball, Inc., which manages the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team, will be the first customer, using the system from the commencement of the 2017 baseball season.
This is stated to be the first time a VR baseball coaching system has been developed in collaboration with a professional baseball team.
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The new system is targeted at raising the performance levels of professional baseball players, simulating for batters the sensation of standing in a real batter’s box and allowing them to experience virtual pitching scenarios through a head-mounted display.
NTT DATA developed the new service in collaboration with Rakuten Baseball, Inc. based on a solution called “Athlete First-Person Vision Synthesis” which was developed by NTT Media Intelligence Laboratories.
It allows players to experience a sense of full realism thanks to the processing and presentation of massive amounts of data sourced from numerous sensors.
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During the development phase, Rakuten Eagles players participated in trials and verified the practicability and usability of the system, testing pitchers’ characteristics and pitches and the timing of batting responses.
Rakuten Eagles player Toshiaki Imae, who participated in the trials, said “The head-mounted display gives players the advantage of being able to practice receiving a variety of pitches. This gives them more confidence, and the readiness to face any game.”
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The VR baseball coaching system allows the generation of a virtual reality 360-degree 3D baseball field and the projection of pitching images onto the display, providing players with the sensation of standing in a real batter’s box.
The system computes vast amounts of pitching data sourced from Rakuten Baseball’s own games, and uses this to generate pitching scenarios.
The system takes into account the batter’s position in the batter’s box and their changing head directions when they swing the bat, reproducing a matching three-dimensional trajectory of the ball in their field of vision as it is pitched.
The players view these images through their head-mounted display; the high quality of the video images ensures no dizziness or discomfort. They can repeatedly experience the pitching motion and trajectory of balls from the batter’s position, allowing them to train prior to encountering various pitchers, and for the whole team to plan their strategy prior to each game.