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Former Redbird races to launch VR sports app – News


Anil Gillan ’23 is making significant progress in his professional career after honing his competitiveness as a player Redbird Track and Field Decathlon.

“In the decathlon, if you go out and master the first five events of the day, you still have five more events you need to master,” Gillan said. “So, it’s always been an endless pursuit, and now I can apply the same thing to business.”




Illinois State: Spring 2024




a computer science Gillan, a major, earned his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State in December and now works for Dell in Austin, Texas. When he finishes his workday, Gillan begins his second job: developing VRtual Playbook, a virtual reality (VR) sports software startup founded in Illinois that aims to enhance the moviegoing and training experience for elite athletes.

Ceylan has always been passionate about sports. A native of White Rock, British Columbia, he was a Canadian national champion in the pentathlon and a two-time multi-event state champion. Gillan was recruited by several NCAA Division I track and field programs, but decided to attend Illinois State University where his sister, Bria Gillan ’22, was a goalkeeper for the Redbirds’ soccer team.

Anil Gillan holds a big check after winning the Startup Showcase competition.
Ceylan took home first place and a $10,000 prize for his virtual reality sports app, VRtual Playbook, at the Startup Showcase in November 2023.

“It seemed like the perfect balance between athletics and academics,” Gillan said. I said to myself: Yes, this is where I want to be. “This place was home to me and my sister.”

Gillan appreciated the support his coaches at Redbird provide to major in computer science and pursue extracurricular opportunities. During the recruiting process, other schools were discouraged from balancing such a rigorous academic path with sports, he said. But Gillan made it clear to his coaches and advisors at Illinois State early on that his ambitions extended beyond track and field. “They were very helpful,” he said.

Gillan competed for the Redbirds from 2020-23, finishing 10th overall in the heptathlon at the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships.

“I learned the importance of teamwork,” Gillan said. “There are over 100 of us (on the team), and you have so many different personalities and people from so many different places. I’ve learned how to work together as a team to win.”

Gillan also served as president Cyber ​​Security Club For two years he was a senator for Student Government Association. In the spring of 2023, he was elected student body president but resigned after two weeks to pursue a summer internship with Dell.

This training led to Gilan’s full-time position as a sales engineer in Dell’s OEM division, where he worked as an intermediary between technical developers and the customer-facing sales team.

“I wanted to start a career where I could talk to people and have a lot of customer interaction, while also being on the business side of things,” Gillan said. “By being a sales engineer, I’m able to do that.”

In the evenings, Ceylan works with his business partner, Nachi Rotte, to develop the VRtual Playbook. They came up with the idea last summer while thinking about sports applications for virtual reality technology.

Gillan collaborated with Charles Edamala, associate vice president for technology solutions at Illinois State, and Dr. Roy D. Magnuson, associate professor of creative technologies, to create a prototype.

“We’ve created an app that transforms the movie watching experience from watching it on your tablet or whiteboard to putting on VR glasses and seeing the X’s and O’s as real players moving on the field.”

-Anil Gillan ’23

“As an athlete, Anil has great insight into the multi-billion-dollar professional sports industry, and I suggested to him that he look into a product that uses virtual reality there,” Edamala said. “He then ran with it and got input from the ISU men’s basketball team, researchers and others. He developed the final concept almost entirely with that team and the input of Dr. Roy Magnuson.

VRtual Playbook was initially designed to immerse basketball players in a virtual environment to review and practice plays.

“We’ve created an app that transforms the movie watching experience from watching it on your tablet or whiteboard to putting on VR glasses and seeing the X’s and O’s as real players moving on the field,” said Gillan.

Last fall, Gillan’s pitch for VRtual Playbook won an award Startup Gallerya Shark tankStyle competition hosted by the George R. and Martha Means for Entrepreneurship Studies at Illinois State. The grand prize of $10,000 will fund Gillan’s efforts to develop and launch the VRtual Playbook this spring.

Since then, Gillan and Rutti have also shifted their focus to an app for football instead of basketball, partnering with two Power Five athletics programs to conduct a beta test.

“Ten years ago, we would never have thought that gamers would look at their tablets to review movies during a time limit like they do now,” Gillan said. “Ten years from now, they might be wearing VR headsets. We want to lead that and make that a reality.”

Gillan is excited about the future and grateful for his experience at Illinois State, from the track to the computer lab.

“At ISU, I learned to choose what I was passionate about and really pursue it,” Gillan said. “With VRtual Playbook, developing an app that creates a virtual sports environment became a passion.”



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