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NFL to test virtual reality simulators for training referees

The NFL is in the early phases of developing VR training materials for its officials.

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Virtual reality use isn’t just for NFL teams to improve players’ on-field performance or engage with fans as part of a corporate activation. Now the league will gets its referees involved as well.

“We will be testing new technology for training officials, including virtual reality simulators and POV cameras,” an NFL spokesperson told SportTechie via email.

The NFL is in the early phases of developing VR training materials for the league’s referees, Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle told BizTech Magazine.

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Through the technology integration, league officials will be able to obtain more mental reps as they practice calling game-like situations, according to the report.

Still, while little is known about how or when the virtual reality technology will be used, the league has made it apparent its deeper investment into the new medium. Over the latter half of the 2016 season, the NFL has partnered with virtual reality companies VOKE and NextVR to create virtual reality highlights packages for fans, with the latter laying the groundwork for NFL games to be broadcast live in virtual reality. NextVR tested with the NFL last year to shoot three games in virtual reality while it’s currently working with NBA Digital to broadcast 25 NBA games this season on LEAGUE PASS.

Additionally, the NFL expanded upon its current relationship with Google, kicking off a nine-part virtual reality series on Thanksgiving. The series, which the NFL says is the first episodic sports program in virtual reality, gives fans an all-encompassing view of the league and its players.

“We are always looking for new ways to engage with our fans. Virtual reality is an emerging platform that enables content experiences with a truly unique vantage point that brings fans closer to the game,” NFL senior vice president for digital media Vishal Shah said in a statement following the announcement.