BY PATRICK KEVILLE DATE: 08/03/21 TERM KEY: IRL= IN REAL LIFE VR= VIRTUAL REALITY
World League Syndicate uses emerging and established mobile technologies to enhance Table Tennis’s competitive and community experience. WLS believes Table Tennis is both a great starting point and will be a prominent frontier in the world of sports in the near future both In Real Life and in Virtual Reality. Technology is becoming intertwined with our life in a big way. WLS believes the importance of investing in activities that maintain harmony with our local communities as the freedom and convenience of simulating the athletic experience becomes more of an everyday reality. WLS does not see VR as a substitute for IRL Table Tennis but rather a synergistic compliment. Table Tennis’s ability to translate from IRL to VR so effectively gives the established sport a lot of room for growth going forward. Table Tennis is “Grey”.
“Greyness” is the potential Interoperability of a skill based activity from “real life” that translates almost entirely to virtual reality. Practicing in the virtual can enhance real life skill based activity performance, as practicing IRL can lead to better performance in the virtual.
Virtual sports are able to have skills that translate and apply from IRL to a VR context in a meaningful way that blurs the line between the IRL and VR experiences. Games like Chess, Poker and Go are “Grey” because the IRL and virtual experience are so close that players of the games move from either state without much adjustment. The experiences are so close that there is little to no specialization of being an IRL or virtual player. That said there is always a little bit of adjustment for playing poker or chess on a screen vs IRL. It feels different spatially and having other people around makes it more intense.
"Greyness" also exists in IRL sports as Proxy environments that use man made apparatus to simulate obstacles found in nature like waves, rocks, and snow.
We can look at rock climbing as a good example of a sport benefiting from “Greyness”. Climbing started out climbing rocks in nature. After a while climbers started making plastic rock holds and screwing them to man made walls so they could practice climbing without going to the mountains. The result of this was that climbers got better faster. They were able to simulate what they were working on in the mountains in a controlled environment and master the moves (betas) to try it on the mountain with a greater degree of exposure to risk. Climbing rapidly grew in popularity and climbers were able to become exponentially better faster. Where climbing is less grey is when outdoor climbing is still considered a more complex experience. An outdoor only climber would have an easier time with climbing gym problems initially then an indoor climber would with trying to climb outdoors initially. Outdoor climbing has way more vectors of uncertainty. Indoor climbing is safer and more predictable because of Its linear and straightforward nature. An experienced pure outdoor climber will always be better than an experienced pure indoor climber, where an experienced hybrid climber will reach a higher potential and be a more complete climber. They will have training on problems that are more physically demanding and on average more opportunity to practice dynamic movements in a safe environment year round. The amount of natural problems outdoors is also finite where the amount of new indoor problem sequences are virtually infinite in possible arrangements. That mixed with experience in being adaptable and wise from the real rock experience let the hybrid climber reach a potential they never would have if they had just done one or the other. The key to optimal performance is a balanced approach between the simulation and the real thing.
Most professional competition climbers compete exclusively on artificial walls with fresh routes arranged specifically for that competition. This is done so no climber has the unfair advantage of climbing and familiarizing the problem beforehand which would be unavoidable if competitions were held on natural rocks outdoors. Broadly speaking there are two types of professional climbers, Competition style (mostly indoor) and Lifestyle (mostly outdoor) with both schools dabbling in both of each other's realms to varying degrees. This Grey and synergistic relationship has helped climbing exponentially in participation and the limits of what is possible in the sport.
A sport can be Grey in the sense that it can be experienced in both IRL and the Virtual with the same skill set.
Virtual Reality is starting to integrate into professional sports and it is here to stay:
There are many virtual experiences inspired by sports. Sport video games are a good example. Racing games have integrated with their IRL counterparts more than any other virtual sport.
Many professional driver’s got hooked on racing through realistic driving simulator video games like Gran Turismo and Forza that debuted in the 90’s. Today serious racers spend thousands of hours qualifying and preparing for races in multi-million dollar race simulation apparatuses that can simulate virtually everything about the car except the danger and G forces.
“Many pro racers privately used the games to train. At a minimum, the tracks’ fidelity lets drivers memorize the layout. Some teams use special simulator software to fine-tune the setup of their actual cars before a race. Sim racing builds driving skill enough that some gamers, like William Byron, have graduated into real cars. Mr. Byron, a NASCAR Cup Series driver, now owns a eNASCAR team, which won a $100,000 purse in the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.”
Race car driving is increasingly relying on sim racing for qualifications and is even being incorporated into professional event structures. By having preliminary events last year during the height of covid when fans were not allowed to go to the race track. NASCAR used the IRacer platform to have their professionals compete live in the simulators. During a virtual race in 2020 Kyle Larson got fired from his IRL team for intentionally crashing his virtual car in the race that was being broadcasted to a live tv audience. Professional organizations are taking virtual racing seriously and it is only the beginning. The racing organizations see it as a way to better connect with the mass audience and dramatically lower the barrier of entry for serious fans who also play race sims. Many drivers use the iracing (popular racing simulation platform) for preparation and it is getting extremely realistic but the g forces and danger will not be in the equation anytime soon. The worlds best sim racers and the best real drivers share some things in common in terms of their skills but only to a certain point. The very best are still specialized. Even though there are subtle differences in the skill sets between VR/IRL professionals. If they are from IRL can look forward to seeing more IRL competition including iracing scenarios where sponsored drivers will be contractually obligated to participate and more iracing professionals are making the jump to the real thing thanks to having access to so much invaluable practice.
The racing world is heading towards a future where VR experience is increasingly important for IRL professional driver’s careers even though they are not exactly the same skill set.
Until now only games like chess have reached near parity in having the skills of the game translate from IRL to the Virtual. Unlike games, sports are far more complex and difficult to replicate compared to the binary nature of games like Chess. Sports can not be simulated in the virtual (on screen) for a convincing experience sports have to be simulated in VR . Haptic sensors have to account for a multitude of vectors that make up the experience of reality. Until recently VR devices have been reliant on expensive gaming pc’s and were expensive in their own right. The relatively crude and limiting experience also did not justify the price tag of getting into VR for most users up until very recently with the introduction of the oculus quest 2. With the oculus quest 2 users have a cheap standalone device that is capable of mass adoption. Mass adoption and the simulation of sports in VR is now possible.
In 2019 technology has gotten so advanced that the virtual Chess community is larger and more accessible than in the physical. Table Tennis although similar to chess still is required to be played in a physical location. Chess only requires simple AI and a computer interface.
Table Tennis’ competitive landscape across the board
In Table Tennis’ current state, having a balance of competition and support for development seem to be a crucial ingredient in keeping people engaged with table tennis. More advanced players tend to alienate newcomers to the sport because the skill gap is large. The newbie can't compete and feels discouraged.This is apparently what can happen at some work places that get a ping pong table. Advanced players can also get discouraged if they don't have access to challenging opponents which is why they stop showing up to local leagues. That said the competition element is there for those who want it and can afford it. Even if you are a total beginner you can compete in some of the same tournaments as the pros. You might be able to compete with the pros but to play like one is an entirely different ball game.
From the startup break room or basement to the Olympic podium table tennis is a virtually infinite stream of competitive hierarchies of different skill levels, kind of like levels and final bosses in a video game. There is passion and dedication at all levels of play. The more advanced the more exciting the match play tends to get and the learning curve gets exceedingly difficult to become an advanced player.
Most elite players began rigorous structured training as children into adulthood. The best clubs tend to cater to the development of these rising stars. If you are over the age of 16 with the aim of becoming an expert player the challenge can be daunting, especially if you don't have expert support. Also what seems important to lasting engagement for most players alongside advance competition is a readiness to help new players, practice good sportsmanship and provide good fellowship.
For Greyness to exist in both IRL and VR sports the scale of the IRL sport needs to be simulated convincingly for the user in the VR Experience. The spatial parameters need to correlate 1:1 from IRL to VR for the IRL sports experience to translate into the virtual space where the skill can be similar to IRL. Practicing in the virtual world can improve the players' level IRL and vice versa.
Table Tennis is in the goldilocks zone of grey sports to facilitate a powerful synergy with IRL and the VR World
Table Tennis’ simplicity, international popularity, and long important histories make them ideal bellwethers for new technologies and ideas because they are as simple as they are complex. If chess could be considered the gold standard of greyness, then table tennis could be considered the gold standard in sports. Table Tennis has a rich provenance in coinciding with technological innovation.The scale of table tennis’ playing environment translates from IRL to VR very well because players only need half the space of a traditional IRL playing environment to simulate the full scale experience in VR.
Table Tennis is one of the only sports that can be played in most people's living rooms. If you want to Revolutionize IRL/VR sports ,Table Tennis is a great place to start.
Table Tennis and Chess are tightly intertwined with technological progression throughout modern history.
Instances of Table Tennis chess as technological benchmarks:
When digital computing was invented after WW2 Chess was one of the first games to be played on and against a computer.
The first commercially available home video game in 1980? PONG.
1997 Deep Blue beat world number 1 chess player Garry Kasparov.
Today Chess.com has over 15 million members who play anyone online for free competitively.
2012 the rise of the tech startup and Silicon Valley put the ping pong table at the center of new ideas about corporate culture and a new kind of work place
2014 VR technology although in its infancy has hit the consumer market with an array of different table tennis titles. (not quite realistic yet)
2018 robotics company has developed FORPHEUS, a robot that can play a human in table tennis at a high level and learns from its mistakes. ( It can't beat a professional. Yet.)
2021 eleven table tennis vr is emerging as strong global community thanks to the introduction of the oculus 2 platform by facebook and steam
The emergence of "Greyness" in the current VR/IRL Ecosystem of Table Tennis
Eleven Table tennis is the most advanced table tennis simulator on the market for VR. It has 10s of thousands of active players all over the world. In 11 Table Tennis Players can train against the computer or against each other in the online lobby where they compete with Ranking and Rating points. The experience is so close that experienced table tennis players' skill level considerably translates to the VR game even though, as far as hardwear is concerned, we are still in the early stages. The emergence of VR has made it possible for table tennis to be “Grey”.
How the Table Tennis Competition experience could include VR in the future.
Table tennis is played all over the world but only thrives competitively in certain hot spots. Even in places where people enjoy table tennis, their location may prohibit them from regularly competing at a high level because it might be too rural or in a place where table tennis is not yet popular. It takes exposure to other high level players to become and be able to compete with other high level players. By incorporating VR table tennis in the schema of IRL competition structures. For large countries travel expenses prove too prohibitively expensive to allow nation & regional competition structures like professional leagues. By incorporating VR competition formats into preliminary rounds of IRL competition you could transform it in a way where professional competitions could be open to all skill levels. If players make it through the rounds in the virtual they could be invited and flown out to compete in a more high stakes mediated final round of competition with a small group of highly skilled vr/irl table tennis players from no specific location. VR use in preliminary rounds is just one use case. There are many different competition formats that can be made to incorporate VR in varying degrees to create different experiences for the players.
Until now, a person, especially if they are no longer a child, would have to spend a lot of time and energy just to find a place to play, players at the same level to compete with, and training partners. With the advent of the oculus rift, the first device to break the threshold of consumer price and minimum standard of hardware capabilities, VR is now a serious option for cross training and competing that utilities and improves the same skillset. Never before have athletes been able to arbitrage their IRL skills so completely in the digital space. Now table tennis players can find players at their level anywhere in the world or play against ai without leaving your living room. Through incorporating VR training along with
IRL table tennis; players now have easy access to a form of high level training and competition that only very privileged players had access to in the past. Just like how artificial walls in rock climbing brought the mountains to the city, VR lets players of the same competitive skill set compete and connect worldwide without serious travel being a barrier of entry.
World League Syndicates currently gives IRL Table Tennis players the tools to self manage sanctioned competition such as Leagues and one off matches that are connected to a worldwide database that ranks and rates players both on a world wide scale as well as according to location range:
Thanks to the WLS mobile app IRL Players are able to play, keep track of and submit results of self managed competition.
This basic level of support for competitive players to challenge other players, record official results, and maintain rankings and rating also exists on the Eleven Table Tennis for VR platforms like Oculus 2. Both systems let players compete with ranking,ratings, and competition management tools all without official umpires or league directors and are accessible on affordable mobile technology. What these competitive ecosystems are missing is a link between them that lets the IRL and VR Rating speak to each other.
How do IRL and VR competition rating systems differ?
WLS’s TTaiR and other databases rating systems like USATT and Rating Central do not speak to the rating systems in the VR space . Since IRL Table Tennis has been around so much longer than VR there are a lot more players established on IRL systems. However this will not last long. In VR all the competitive matches are captured automatically. Every player that plays Eleven table tennis has a basic profile rating and ranking. Even though more people currently play more IRL a very small percentage of those players are registered on a database with up to date ratings and rankings. Before the WLS app was available IRL Table Tennis players needed to have competition organized and processed by officials and umpires. WLS’s Player managed system lets players organize and submit results easily and instantly, raising the amount of sanctioned competitive matches a player can play that affects their rating, ranking, and saves to a database.
At this point in time IRL players have access to WLS and VR players have access to Eleven Table Tennis. So both IRL and VR players both have access to competitive ecosystems for players that have profiles that keep track of their Rating performance and results.
What WLS is in the process of doing is designing a way not only to keep track of IRL and VR rating in the same app but to also go a step further by having the IRL and VR ratings speak with and update each other.
What would it mean for IRL and VR Ratings to speak to each other?
Table Tennis players will always play one form of table tennis more than the other. Whether it is IRL or VR that player is likely to be better in and more comfortable in whichever state they have been playing in the most consistently. That favored state will determine the player's specialty.
Even though there are some small differences in the skill sets of IRL and VR they are still Grey enough to where improvement in one state will be apparent in the other and the more the player plays in both states the difference will be apparent in both of the player’s IRL and VR ratings
Currently If a players rating goes up or down in IRL or VR the increase or decrease only affects that specific rating. WLS is adding a layer of Interoperability between the two ratings so when one rating goes up or down the other ratings adjusts up or down based on how much the player plays both IRL and VR table tennis.
A new era of Table Tennis is emerging.
Table tennis players now have access to sports that are played with skills from IRL in VR anytime instantly on affordable mobile devices.
World League Syndicate aims to build a competitive interconnected ecosystem between irl and vr, emerging a hybrid player that gets better skills more quickly with a more gamefied experience with more competitive options.
Player managed competition for both IRL and VR on the same platform.
Player managed Table Tennis competition is now available through WLS in IRL and Eleven Table Tennis in VR. Currently the WLS mobile app lets players instantly create and join competition through generating and sharing “play codes” WLS’s first step to fully integrating the two states is to expand the play code generation system for creating matches specifically for the VR ecosystem complete with a separate database for VR TT ranking and ratings + results repository.
Hybrid competition structures and a flattening of access to high quality training + competition anywhere
With hybrid competition structures, players can compete Virtually to win a chance to qualify for an IRL event making the same happening/competition be experienced in an infinitely larger location range. Players all over the world now have access to hi quality competition anytime and anywhere. Because player’s have such easy access to competition and training, they now have the opportunity to accrue infinitely more hours of practice and working on their skills. Table Tennis like any other sport that requires 1000’s of hours of repetition to achieve a competent skill level, VR gives player’s the opportunity and conditions to potentially accelerate improvement and maintain skills with less time and effort than was traditionally possible with just IRL Table tennis practice. VR competition also can keep player’s skills sharp in between IRL sessions. It can be hard to maintain skills at a competitive level without practice. Even people who love to play stop entirely because players didn't have the time to practice without having it interfere with their personal responsibilities. The growth of VR table tennis maintains and replenishes the IRL community.
Table Tennis Players in VR can now form community and friendship with table tennis players all over the world.
A problem with embracing personal technology for recreation and entertainment is a more atomized existence with less social interaction and human contact with IRL communities. World League Syndicate believes in the untapped potential of personal VR and mobile devices to strengthen IRL communities rather than chipping away at them. In the current world, playing sports video games doesn't usually lead people to playing that sport more IRL. The skills in the games have little to translate beyond strategy aside from Car racing simulators. In most cases sports video games lead to a semi permanent substitute to ever playing those sports IRL. The friends players connect with will stay just “friends online.’ an enjoyable video game incentivizes its players to spend time alone with the game to get better. Playing basketball doesn't really improve your performance in NBA2k and vice versa. This is where VR Table Tennis is different from other games. Playing table tennis IRL will make you better in VR and it is probably a necessity to do both to have the skills to compete at a high level in VR Table Tennis. The "Greyness" of table tennis reinforces rather than takes attention from IRL community experiences.
World League Syndicate believes in a grey future for sports that can bring together VR and IRL into a hybridized ecosystem which emphasizes a mass participation of players in a competitive ecosystem that lets players quantify their ability and progress in a meaningful and sustainable way.
In the terms of quantifying a player’s ability and progression in skill level not all sports are created equal. In ranking and rating a player’s ability, individual sports are easier to quantify than team sports. Also the more competitive situations with unique individuals a player can encounter in a sport over the course of a period of time the more data there is the more accurate the rating and ranking will be in reflecting the athletes abilities. Duration, size, and availability of competition are all important factors in skill level evaluation. Why would it be important for a sport to be able to quantify skill level? A Ranking and Rating’s primary function for competition is seeding players for competition. Beyond the need for seeding is the desire for players to keep track of their progress and performance.
WLS believes that in order to keep track of progress and performance in a meaningful way players need an accurate rating system they can depend on. WLS saw a need to develop a better rating system for table tennis.
What is the problem with rating systems that are similar to the old chess Elo system and USATT?
Elo ratings assume exponential growth potential in a skill at a specific game or sport which leads to constant rating inflation meaning that the ceiling keeps rising. This leads to ratings having different meanings:
Depending where you are competing in the world
Where you lay on the spectrum of skill level
How many different players a player plays
The average skill level of the player a player plays
The possibilities of gaming the rating system for ill gotten self gain. Whether or not a player strategically plays, defaults, and or takes advantage of rating arbitrage opportunities to get the highest rating possible or they play whoever comes their way as detrimental to their rating they may be.
There are many factors that determine how accurate a player's rating is in the current systems of ranking and ratings in table tennis. WLS has looked at the variables that affect the current rating system’s performance like USATT and Rating Central of accurate seeding, user psychology, and opportunities for gamification. As a result WLS has created TTaiR (table tennis artificial intelligence rating system) to support a better competitive experience.
What makes TTaiR different from other Table Tennis rating systems?
TTaiR uses a 0.01-99.99 scale 99.99 being the highest possible rating & 0.01 being the lowest rating. Because TTaiR is so radically different from other rating systems. To use a similar rating scale would invite comparison and would be inaccurate.
TTaiR is optimized to assess a players skill level as accurately as possible to ensure the best possible matchmaking, point gain/loss & rankings both globally & locally. This is done by constantly honing the value used to make rating calculations. The more TTaiR is used the better it gets at making predictions.
TTaiR uses Quantum Branches to govern the amount of rating points awarded/subtracted according to the player’s skill level. This allows the point volatility to be more intense and gameified for beginner players. less volatile & more stable for advanced players. This makes TTaiR fun but not at the expense of accuracy.
TTair has a deflationary mechanism of point degradation as a consequence of player inactivity for a certain amount of time. The degradation is according to which quantum branch category a player resides in according to their skill level
TTaiR is Powered by: Organic Intelligence
Every population pyramid is unique, most can be categorized into three prototypical shapes, expansive (young and growing), constrictive (elderly and shrinking),and stationary little to no population growth). TTaiR takes these patterns seen in logarithmic models of growth in nature and applies them to the skill levels of table tennis for a more accurate reflection of a player’s abilities and progression.
All Features listed above come together to create a Rating System that minimizes competitive anxieties with playing opponents that are under or over rated. Eliminates the incentive for players to play other players that are higher rated for maximum point gain and focus on players of similar skill levels for maximum point gain. The Rating system has a huge effect on a players state of mind and determines how they approach competition. WLS main objective is to help players have a life long relationship with the competitive table tennis experience. For players of all levels at a global scale. Having a rating system that can handle that scale and not get distorted is important.
What are some of the obstacles Facing VR adoption among existing IRL players?
Outside the scope of the competitive VR Table Tennis experience not having a platform for meaningful interpolarity between IRL There are barriers of entry and usability concerning the technology that supports VR.
Even though the VR table tennis experience has gotten quite realistic, Hardware and Table Tennis VR Software is still in its early stages of development and has a long way to go. Going forward:
Headsets will need to be more compact, ergonomic and capable at a cheap enough price point for mass adoption. A lot of this technology exists in the marketplace currently but requires advanced setup and big bucks to make happen. Currently the main platform Eleven Table Tennis VR is a VR only experience. Things like field of view and latency need to be improved. One of the biggest differences in IRL and VR is that the body is invisible in the game. The only thing that is visible about a player is a face mask and controllers. Going forward to bring closer to parody with the IRL game, VR hardware would benefit from finding an economical way to have players bodies or avatars controlled by body movement in the game for better balance when moving.
One of the biggest barriers to a more realistic experience in VR is the control was not designed specifically for table tennis. The best we can do at the moment are to use Adapters that mimic the feeling of an IRL paddle. WLS has been Researching and Developing adapters that better reflect the sensation of an IRL paddle but conforming to the existing form factor has its limitations. Custom controllers tailored to VR table tennis would take the simulation experience to a new level of reality.
Even though there are some barriers still present to a “a perfect table tennis simulation” with the current software and hardware, most users currently have relatively affordable VR hardware options. The VR experience is reasonably realistic enough to produce a “Greyness” with VR and IRL Table Tennis. In Spite of the barriers of entry the potential is there for a lot of growth and innovation In the future of VR Table Tennis. World League Syndicate is there to help make a “Grey” Table Tennis a reality.