Where Are Vectors Used in Real Life?

Globe Turner, LLC/Getty Images

Vectors are often used in navigation. In many cases, they are easier to relay than instructions based on grid systems. Sports teams and sport commentary rely on vectors as well.

Vectors sound complicated, but they are common when giving directions. For example, telling someone to walk to the end of a street before turning left and walking five more blocks is an example of using vectors to give directions. Telling someone to walk to where 25th Street intersects with 8th Avenue, on the other hand, is not a use of vectors.

Navigating by air and by boat is generally done using vectors. Planes are given a vector to travel, and they use their speed to determine how far they need to go before turning or landing. Flight plans are made using a series of vectors.

Sports instructions are based on using vectors. Wide receivers playing American football, for example, might run a route where they run seven yards down the field before turning left 45 degrees and running in that direction. Sports commentary also depends on vectors. Only a few sports have fields with grids, so discussions revolve around the direction and speed of the player. Illustrations of plays in a variety of sports rely on simple vector images.