The potential for virtual reality (VR) technology to train the world’s athletes is being explored through a new business in the UK. Manchester-based University of Salford graduate Piotr Kotlarek has set up The VR Den, which has one of the only instances of the KAT WALK Premium in Europe.
It is a fully immersive VR experience that tracks feet movements, head and body position, and arm movements to create life-like gaming experiences. Kotlarek currently hires the equipment out to events and gaming conferences across the UK, but he has much grander plans.
Kotlarek, who graduated from the University of Salford computer game design course, wants to use the kit and his skills to create experiences that will help to prepare athletes for the environments that they will face when they are competing.
He said of his plans: “There is already research proving the potential value that VR has in education. It is another device that anyone can learn, it’s no different to using any other piece of kit, but it is just so much more immersive than using a controller or keyboard and mouse. This is the only kit of this type available in the UK at the moment.”
“As I build the business my ultimate aim is to create experiences that professional athletes could use. For example, you could recreate a track or a course in the VR environment and then the athlete could practice in as a real a situation as possible to prepare themselves for what the environment will be like.”
The VR Den is receiving assistance from the new incubator unit Launch@SalfordUni at the University of Salford, which opened earlier this year. Businesses in the incubator get access to office space as well as masterclasses and one-to-one sessions with experienced entrepreneurs to help focus and build their businesses. Launch@SalfordUni is supported by the Business Growth Hub.
Kotlarek said: “The best advice I have had so far is to focus on one niche and make that work, rather than spread myself too thin in too many areas. Once that bit of the business is working and bringing in money, then I can look at expanding my ideas, but I’m ambitious and I really believe that VR has the potential to change the way we do a lot of things. It’s not just about gaming!”
Dave Spicer, dean of the University of Salford Business School, which supports Launch@Salford, commented: “It is great to see these businesses start to develop as the incubator beds in.”
“The University of Salford aims to make sure our graduates leave us with the skills to succeed in whatever field they want when they leave us. This incubator is one way we show that commitment as we create the entrepreneurs of the future, people whose drive and ambition could create the jobs of the future and help support the region’s economy.”