Recent years have seen an increased focus on player safety in the face of the countless dangers of playing football in the NFL. Now, a group of Dartmouth engineering students have developed a robot tackling dummy designed to be hit and pummeled to make football practice safer.
The Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) is covered in black padding but measures 6 feet tall and weighs 185 lbs, reflecting the typical build of an average football player. Development of the new technology began in 2013 after Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens began looking for new ways to cut down on football practice injuries. Teevens banned full-contact during practice in 2010, and the rest of the Ivy League followed in 2016.
“The MVP was originally developed as a product to simulate player motion on the field in an effort to reduce player-on-player contact specially at Dartmouth College. But now other teams have seen the usefulness of it at practice,” said MVP co-founder Elliott Kastner.
In 2016, MVP released a limited quantity of the robot tackling dummy, allowing several NFL teams to purchase it for $8,000 each. The Pittsburgh Steelers were among the first teams to jump at the opportunity.
“The applications we are quickly finding are really endless,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “It never gets tired and it runs at an appropriate football speed. In today’s NFL with player safety the focus, I think it’s going to provide opportunities to improve without the hand to hand man to man combat.”
The MVP is powered by internal motors and operated by a human via a remote control device.
According to John Currier, CEO of MVP, the concept behind the robot tackling dummy was to have “all the motion and pursuit and unpredictability and the ability to tackle, without having it be our teammate. To take one player, one helmet, one brain out of the collision. You can still practice footwork, positioning, and follow through on the tackle without the risk of banging your head on your teammate’s helmet.”
The MVP is currently still in testing but its developers hope to have it available to other teams by the end of 2017.
By Rory Arnold, Earth.com Staff Writer