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About Us

PITCHvr(TM) - Perceptual Image Trainer for the Complete Hitter in the virtual realm (Original prototype from March 2018 is shown.)

PITCHvr, Baseball Hitting Simulator, in the CAVE at Villanova University.

PITCHvr (patent pending), developed by Dr. Mark A. Jupina at Villanova University, will provide players at the high school and college level — and eventually the major leagues — with the opportunity to take virtual batting practice, whether it be in a virtual reality CAVE environment, on the ball field while wearing augmented reality headsets, or anywhere, via state-of-the-art virtual reality systems, which are equipped with a variety of tracking and sensing technologies.   The current product, PITCHvr Vision, provides perceptual image training for a hitter through the use of various visual assets, soundscapes, and haptic feedback so as to enhance a player's recognition of the strike zone, location of a pitch, and type of pitch.  There are no limits as to how the training experience can be varied and analyzed.  Eye trackers in the headsets provide analytics on the hitter's eye movements and a variety of sensing technologies are integrated into the system to evaluate a hitter's body and swing mechanics. Physically realistic pitch data sets from the high school level to the MLB level have been created through the use of the equations of motion which take into account the effects of gravity, drag, and spin (Magnus force) on the baseball.  Any type of pitch by any pitcher can be accurately reproduced.  The positions, velocities, accelerations, and spin axis orientations are accurately reproduced as a function of time. Pitching avatars with realistic mechanics (down to the finger positions ) have been created for the animations to provide the player with an experience as close as possible to the real world.

PITCHvr Media Links

The Inventor of PITCHvr working with a HTC Vive Pro

Testimonials

“… the software (PITCHvr) would allow an immense amount of practice not possible in regular batting practice sessions … ”  

SBNation, April 2019


“We are interested in partnering with Villanova since Villanova cares about developing the science... ”  

A director of baseball research  and development, one of the MLB teams




Upcoming and Recent Events

This fall, look for free versions of MARKxr's PITCHvr Vision product on the Steam and Oculus stores.  Any version of the Vive or Rift HMDs can be used with our training routines.  We want to get our patent-pending training routines into the hands of ball players to provide us with feedback as we get closer to launching our products commercially.


 We will also post updates at this site as our hitting training tool, PITCHvr Hitter, nears completion. 


In late August, 2019, we have completed our initial prototype of gaze point capture using the HTC Vive Pro Eye headset.  Really a GAME CHANGER here since we can now determine how well the player is tracking a pitched ball during their swing mechanics.  Training routines evaluating how well a player handles the effective velocity and tunneling of pitches are now being developed!  


See the video below illustrating gaze point capture in real time.

HTC Vive Pro Eye Training Example

(Evaluation of Gaze Point Capture)

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HTC Vive Pro Video of an MLB Fan Experience by MARKxr

Justin Verlander 83 MPH Curveball

Examples of Existing Training Experiences in PITCHvr Vision

Pitch Release Zones (P Zones)

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Players need to focus on the pitch release point.  The use of this asset trains the hitter to do just that!

Tunnel Zones (T Zones) Training

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You have heard all about effective velocity and tunneling of pitches.  This semi-transparent asset helps trains the brain to differentiate between different types of pitches. 

Strike Zone (K Zone) Training

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Speech recognition is employed to automatically score the hitter's performance.    

A staircase adaptive training approach is implemented where the viewing time of the pitch after release is varied. 

Location Zones (L Zones) Training

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Speech recognition is employed to automatically score the hitter's performance.    

A staircase adaptive training approach is implemented where the number and location of selected L Zones is varied. 

Trajectory Training with Soundscapes

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A unique audio soundscape is created for each pitch to help guide the hitter’s eyes to track the virtual pitch. 

Modulated Transparency of the Pitched Ball and Pitch Type Recognition

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A similar approach to the use of stroboscopic glasses is utilized.  However, here only the ball disappears and not the background! Try determining the type of pitch with even less info for the brain.  Not so easy! 

Speech recognition is again employed in scoring performance along with staircase adaptive training approaches.

HTC Vive Pro Video of a L Zone Training Experience by MARKxr

70 MPH Curveball Crossing Through L Zone 2

HTC Vive Pro Video of a K Zone Training Experience by MARKxr

An 86 MPH Fastball Travels for 0.2 s and then Disappears before Reappearing at Home Plate

The Thing About Hitting ...

  •  “Hitting is the single most difficult thing to do in sport.” - Ted Williams
  • Research has demonstrated that elite professional baseball hitters react to stimuli no faster, on average, than the general population.  
  • Consequently, these professional players hit the ball better since they can anticipate where the ball is going before crossing home plate.  Just ask Jennie Finch about making elite pro hitters look bad when they have no mental model of the pitched softball coming at them.
  • Thereby, seeing more (realistic) pitches at the player's peer level leads to a better anticipation of the trajectory of the pitched ball during a game.


Reference

Epstein, David, IT'S ALL ABOUT ANTICIPATION, Sports Illustrated, August 08, 2011.

https://www.si.com/vault/2011/08/08/106095876/its-all-about-anticipation

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One Classic Example of Virtual Realm Training Done Right

Use VR to Teach Juggling

  •  In a study on juggling, the amount of gravity or the speed of the objects was varied during virtual training. 
  • When forced to juggle at higher speeds, the group that received the additional virtual training performed significantly better than the real training only group. 


Reference  

Lammfromm, R., and Gopher, D. (2011). Transfer of skill from a virtual reality trainer to real juggling. BIO Web Conf. 1, 00054 (2011).   doi: 10.1051/bioconf/20110100054

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The MARKxr Training Approach in Virtual and Extended Realms

  • Previous studies suggest that the real value of using the VR as a training tool is not in its ability to create more repetitions of the same types of practice used in real training.
  • Instead, the real value comes from its ability to create unique, evidence-based training conditions that are impossible or highly impractical to use in real training. 
  • Our VR training environment target human performance applications that occur over very short intervals of time, less than a second, where tracking of an object by the “smooth pursuit” of the eyes is critical. 
  • Visual, audio, and tactile stimuli are integrated into the VR training environment so as to assist the user to develop the correct anticipation of the path of the object. 
  • Metrics are built into the training tool to gauge the user’s tracking eye movements’ performance over time.
  • Previous research has demonstrated that training outcomes are improved when practice is designed so that the task difficulty is appropriately matched to the performer’s skill level. “Leave your ego at the door!”
  • Consequently, a staircase adaptive training approach is implemented where performance-based adjustments of various pitch parameters (speed, type of pitch, location, etc.) are employed so as to make the training level optimal for each user since the task difficulty is appropriately matched to the user’s skill level. 


Reference

Gray, Rob, Transfer of Training from Virtual to Real Baseball Batting, Frontiers in Psychology, 13 December 2017,   https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02183/full

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Extremely Realistic Pitching Avatars Are Utilized by MARKxr

You need to make the training experience look as natural as possible, so we employ pitching avatars with realistic pitching mechanics down to the finger positions on the different types of pitches (curves, slurves, sliders, change-ups, cutters, sinkers, two and four seamers). 

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