Virtual reality has many practical applications, but for one of the largest professional sports leagues, it might be used to fight discrimination. The National Football League (NFL) is reportedly trying to configure how to use VR as a training tool for spotting racial and gender prejudice.
The NFL is still in the early stages of using VR to teach league staffers and players about sexism and racism through interactive demonstrations. NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent visited Stanford's Human Interaction Lab over the summer with the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell.
"VR can deliver on real social issues that allow people to be better," Vincent told USA Today. "We'll start using this as another teaching tool later this year. We want to be known as the best place to work."
The NFL might have a point about the social benefits of virtual reality. A 2015 Trends in Cognitive Science study used virtual reality to give people avatars with a different race or gender, and they found a significant reduction in implicit biases against that race or gender.
As early as the 1970s, researchers have also felt that if women could successfully mask their genders during job interviews, there could be an increased chance of that company hiring more women.
The use of virtual reality would be one aspect of the NFL's long-term goal of hiring more women and people of color into coaching and executive positions. A few months ago, the NFL's Buffalo Bills hired the first female full-time assistant coach. The NFL also hosted the first-ever Women's Summit recently, where Goodell announced that the Rooney Rule, which provides more leadership opportunities to minority candidates, would now be extended to also include female candidates.
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