Strobe lights are those crazy white and blue lights that you’ll find at clubs, theme parks or sometimes in movies that flash and flash and flash and FLASH AND FLASH until you feel a little bit dizzy. Well now that kind of strobe lighting technology is being used by Nike to create a set of glasses that are believed to improve the visual performance, reaction time and possibly even short term memory of athletes.
The glasses, which have recently been developed by both Duke University and Nike, are known as SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear and work by blocking the wearer’s vision using a series of strobe lighting effects.
The SPARQ Sensory Performance system, which is the clever part of the glasses, assesses an individual’s needs based on a Sensory Station test, which evaluates how the wearer reacts to ten different sensory and visual performance skills whilst playing sports. This data is then taken from the tests and turned into a series of recommended training programmes.
Once a training programme has been recommended, the glasses work by using a strobe-like light, which flashes up on the inside of the glasses for short periods of time. The glasses are then used when training so that the wearer’s brain can work harder and over time it can learn how to anticipate what’s happening when its vision is being blocked. By using the glasses over longer periods of time, the wearer can improve their reaction time and even improve their sight while training or playing sport.
According to PSFK, the glasses and programmes are already being implemented as part of some professional training plans and in colleges across the US, although it’s expected that Nike will roll out the system globally soon too.
It may seem strange that flashing lights in your eyes in order to obstruct your view could improve your performance, but it’s all about getting the bran to work extra hard in different ways.
Interestingly it’s not just physical performance that could be improved by long-term use of the SPARQ system, the researchers from Duke University found in their testing that wearers had an improved visual short-term memory after repeated use too and could recall letters that were quickly flashed up on a screen with a lot more accuracy than they could previously.
Although the short term memory implications are in the early days of testing, the fact the system could actually make noticeable improvements to our memory could not only have huge implications for athletes and those working in sport sciences, but also other areas of study and medicine.