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Virtual reality has infiltrated Olympic training

Virtual reality headsets may look impossibly dorky — but you know what doesn’t? An Olympic gold medal.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has worked for the past two years with the virtual-reality company STRIVR Labs to prepare its athletes for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Barring secret training operations by other countries, the Post says the U.S. is the first country to use VR in its Olympic training.

Because the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, where the skiing events will be held, is only two years old, VR headset training is especially helpful as most Olympic athletes have only traversed the course a handful of times, the Post explains. The U.S. team took advantage of 2016 pit stop in South Korea during the World Cup to gather its footage, sending one of its coaches barreling down the Jeongseon course over and over again, armed with a 360-degree video camera. STRIVR then made a composite of the coach’s various runs and recalibrated the footage to approximate the intensity of an Olympic ski run.

The Post reports that “most of the U.S. team” has had a virtual run down the Olympic slopes. But these VR ski runs can be somewhat nauseating, which makes some athletes reluctant to train with VR. STRIVR tried to mitigate the risk of motion sickness, encouraging athletes to use the VR footage while perched on motion-simulating equipment so that their bodies align more closely with the images they were seeing. Still, “you watch it and you get pretty sick and dizzy,” one athlete told the Post.

Read more at The Washington Post.