Transferring Skills from Screen to Sky

A Story of the Origins of IntelliGym

The mind is the backbone of soccer intelligence – the ability to see the game develop before it happens – and it is a critical factor for success in soccer. While some believe soccer intelligence is something you must be born with, IntelliGym has proven that it can be developed. We have numerous case studies that showcase how players have transferred cognitive skills they’ve developed with IntelliGym’s computer program – like anticipation, divided attention, peripheral awareness, and decision making under pressure – directly to the field. Tens of thousands of athletes, parents, and coaches have seen it too.

In this article, we discuss the findings from an independent study called Transfer of Skill from a Computer Game Trainer to Flight, which was a major factor in the creation of the IntelliGym technology. The study, conducted in 1994 by Daniel Gopher, Maya Weil, and Tal Barekt, determined the effects of a complex computer game on the performance of Israeli Air Force Cadets. The study set out to show how the use of a training computer game could enhance cadets’ ability to cope with the high demands of flight, without needing constant access to their expensive equipment. Thanks to the findings, the game became a regular component of the training program for the Air Force. And thanks to this, it became the backbone of the IntelliGym.

IntelliGym was inspired by this fighter pilot technology, partly because of this study, which proved that trainees can significantly improve their flight skills by using effective computer-based training tools. Today, the IntelliGym helps athletes train their cognitive skills similar to how fighter pilots train theirs, improving their cognitive skills and enhancing their on-field performance.

The Study

Two groups of cadets trained for 10 one-hour sessions with the computer game, Space Fortress. The full training group (FT) were given debriefings and feedback during their training, while the emphasis-only training group (EOT) were only given general feedback at the end of the session and no feedback during the training.  A third control group did not receive any game experience. All trainees were matched in their abilities based on their basic abilities and light aircraft flight scores.

The game required them to control a spaceship in a frictionless, hostile environment. To earn a high score, the players had to destroy a fortress, defend themselves, destroy surrounding mines, manage their missile resources, and avoid being struck by mines or the fortress.

The game was introduced at an early stage of flight training when basic habits tend to form. 58 cadets aged 18-20 participated. Transfer effects of the game training were then tested during eight flights, where supervisors observed various flying skills such as climbs, descents, and turns, as well as more complex maneuvers. Each flight was scored by the flight instructor on several criteria and given a score on a scale of 4-10. The instructors had no knowledge of which group the trainees belonged to. 

The Results

When it came to flight scores, the FT group who received detailed debriefings and real-time feedback during training scored the highest and performed best overall. This was followed by the EOT group who received general feedback post-simulation training. The control group, who did not train with the game, scored the lowest. The FT group and the EOT group significantly outscored the control group in all categories, including not only total flight school scores, but also turns, corrections, angles, descent rates, vision, and more.

These results show that consistent feedback and well-structured computer-based training simulators that focus on cognitive skills are effective in improving real-life skills. This is what IntelliGym resembles: a computer training application which strengthens the cognitive skills required to enhance hockey sense, complete with full debriefings and in-training feedback. This study and the technology it researched inspired the creation of IntelliGym. 

The study showcases how training using electronic simulations and complex games are effective in improving and transferring skills, even without physical practice. Whether it’s fighter pilots or soccer players, implementing the right type of electronic training program can help individuals improve their instincts and problem-solving skills in incredible ways, especially when combined with on-field and physical training.

Are you ready to improve performance this season for your athlete or team? Sign up for the Soccer IntelliGym and add cognitive training to your routine today!

Buy Now

About the Research

The study was conducted by researchers at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, which is consistently ranked among the world’s top science and technology research universities. It was funded by a grant from the NASA Ames Research Center. Daniel Gopher is Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Human Factors Engineering at the Technion and is one of the world’s leading academic figures in the field of Cognitive Engineering and Cognitive Training, with a career spanning over 40 years. A graduate of Prof. Daniel Kahneman (the Nobel Laureate), Prof. Gopher was awarded the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s Distinguished International Colleague Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the human factors field. He serves as Research Director to IntelliGym and has been a core member of the team since the beginning.