VR on the move – how sport can become more digital

Can Virtual Reality make a real contribution if you want to do sports better, more efficiently or with more fun? We asked ourselves these questions in the run-up to the festival and therefore, together with Schalke hilft! we have put a talk panel on exactly this topic on the festival agenda. Personal trainer & sports influencer Mareike Spaleck, computer science professor Prof. Dr. Jens Gerken and “Schalke hilft!” managing director Sebastian Buntkirchen examined the topic of “Sport and VR” from different angles.

(c) Places _ VR Festival / Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

Places _ VR Festival / Foto: Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

(c) Places _ VR Festival / Frank Vinken

Places _ VR Festival / Photo: Frank Vinken

To ensure that the whole thing was not just a theoretical debate, Mareike Spaleck was already on the road during the day with Alt-Schalker and Eurofighter Martin Max at the festival to try out various sporting applications. The conclusion of the two was quite clear: “It was a lot of fun and I believe that thanks to VR, sport can also be very varied,” said Mareike Spaleck, evaluating her experience. Martin Max was sceptical at first, but then he realised “Although I am not the big technology freak, I have to say that it was just really fun!

(c) Places _ VR Festival / Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

Places _ VR Festival / Photo: Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

With these impressions, which were also recorded on a small video, the conversation between the three experts from the different areas began. In addition, technology expert Sabrina Chmielewski gave an overview of the current market for VR sports applications. The perspectives of the individual panel participants were fundamentally different. For Mareike Spaleck, who works as a personal trainer and runs her own fitness studio, sees opportunities for accompanied training even without personal contact – provided that VR technology and body sensors make further technical progress.

For Prof. Dr. Jens Gerken, who conducts research at the Westf√§lische Hochschule on the topic of sport & digitisation in the “Next Level Sports” project, among other things, other aspects are involved. In his research project, motivation and sustainable guidance for independent training play an important role. Thanks to VR, for example, people in rehabilitation measures can be demonstrably better motivated to exercise.

The managing director of “Schalke hilft!”, the foundation of FC Schalke 04, Sebastian Buntkirchen, sees the topic from an even different perspective. Motivation and fun are also in the foreground for him. The foundation already supports many projects that aim to introduce as many people as possible to sport (e.g. the “Sportbude”, which was also the event location at the Places _ VR Festival). He would like to see even greater consideration given to group experiences in the development of sports applications, as up to now there have been almost only applications for individual sportsmen and women. As soon as this collective experience is possible, he also considers the technology to be a real enrichment for the work of his foundation.

(c) Places _ VR Festival / Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

Places _ VR Festival / Photo: Medienmalocher, Ravi Sejk

The conclusion of the three experts at the end of the interview is positive in perspective. VR can make a contribution precisely where people regard traditional sports activities as unmotivating, attractive and exciting. The gamification aspect offered by the technology in combination with real immersion could have a positive social impact.

The whole panel Places _ Moves in Re-live: