If you’re a sports fan, you likely have a special relationship with referees. Typically, when it benefits your team, they’re the most incredible and qualified employees in existence. However, the second that a call is against you, you’re wondering how in the world this person got the job.
If you’re an NFL fan, the last few years have been quite eventful whether the cards fell in your favor or not. Coming off the substitute referee circus of 2012 and a series of rule additions of varying efficacy in subsequent years, the NFL is looking to VR for potential training of our thankless officials.
While it may feel like a full-time headache to audiences, being an NFL referee is not actually a full-time job and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton thinks that fact is madness. He alluded to refs having to split time and attention between officiating NFL games and their full-time jobs often results in the system not improving. Many believe that the NFL should make a change. As it turns out, VR could be the spark the sport needed.
In statements made while interviewing with BizTech, the NFL’s SVP, Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle stated the the league was “in the early phases of developing VR training materials for referees”. The NFL has already fostered a relationship with VR companies via concussion recognition, various film and video series, and post-game coverage, so it makes perfect sense to bring it to officiating as well.
Emulating the angles and slow motion clips that referees get access to during replay review in live games shouldn’t be an issue for virtual reality, but hopefully the VR simulations will be detailed enough that refs can watch plays unfold in natural game speed with enough definition to notice things a bit better. It’s tough to imagine this tech being efficient while officials are still part-time, but hopefully this technology will find a home within the league.
Maybe we’ll be able to find out if Odell Beckham Jr. would be more effective in VR playoffs than he was in real life.