NTT DATA, in collaboration with Rakuten Baseball, has developed a virtual reality (VR)-based coaching system that simulates the feeling of standing in a batter's box for hitters. In operation since 2017, the system has been used by many national and international teams, and now further planning to be introduced to Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.
Deploying latest technological solutions in the sports industry
Recent advances in ICT have made it possible to collect large amounts of sophisticated data on sports. NTT Group's Media Intelligence Laboratories used this data to successfully develop a technology that allows for an accurate reproduction of the trajectory and the speed of a ball in a 360-degree virtual reality (VR) field.
In 2016, NTT DATA collaborated with Rakuten Baseball Inc. to verify the practicality and effectiveness of the solution by having professional baseball players test the system, for example, checking the characteristics of pitchers, pitches, and batting responses. The solution was finally launched in 2017.
Understanding the needs by collecting first-hand information
Initially, an English-language press release was issued with a view to expanding the service to the US, where baseball is a popular sport. However, a full-scale move to expand the service to the US was initiated following a request from an MLB team.
For conducting market research and understanding the local needs of the players and baseball teams in the US, sales activities were conducted in the US, not from Japan, based on the feedback received. Thus, improvements to the coaching system were implemented.
Consequently, it helped in providing appealing product features that matched the needs of the various local baseball teams, leading to the its introduction there. Despite not being well-established in the US, NTT DATA's service received recognition for its high accuracy, clear projection of pitching images, and for providing players with the sensation of being in a real pitch compared to other US based start-ups.
Increasing visibility in the US sports community and expanding overseas
With several sports companies expressing an interest in the solution, partnering with MLB has raised NTT DATA's profile in the US sports community. In 2019, MLB and NTT announced a technological partnership, with both parties focused on introducing the latest technology, such as NTT's advanced Ultra Reality Viewing (URV), to realize a next-generation baseball viewing experience and other initiatives aimed at overseas business expansion.
Message from the person-in-charge
Closely communicating with the local representatives to understand their needs
We believe that close communication with the local community through the establishment of local contact points, etc. is essential when expanding overseas. For this reason, when NTT DATA expanded its services in the US, it established a system in which the person in charge of operations had a dedicated US line that can be contacted at any time, thus enabling smooth communication in urgent situations.
NTT DATA Corporation
Life Digital Division
Sports Business Promotion Team