The FitBit-ization of VR and the future of youth sports

Among the VR standouts at CES 2018, this company is bringing advanced athletic training to the masses.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Sense Arena, a VR training company based in the Czech Republic, wants to give your kid the perfect slap shot.

The startup, which has a booth at this year's CES, is launching what it's calling "the first truly interactive VR platform where you can train, measure, and analyze athletic performance." Thus commences the FitBit-ization of VR.

Virtual reality training is becoming standard in leagues like the NFL and in top college programs. Companies like Eon Sports VR and STRIVR are helping pros in skills positions, such as batters and quarterbacks, work through game scenarios in safe, no-contact environments.

In addition to offering immersive experiences that feel real, the platforms are beginning to measure bioindicators like respiration and heart rate to fine tune performance.

The transformation could be profound. The introduction of films to athletic training in the middle of the last century changed the way teams prepared for opponents and ushered in a new era of biomechanical research.

Now even football and basketball teams in rec leagues review game film to improve performance and prepare for games.

Much like early video capture technology, VR training is still too costly for all but the best-funded programs. Professional teams shell out $100,000 or more for custom platforms.

Sense Arena is hoping to change that. "If you have an ambitious and devoted kid at home or if you run a gym or sports training center, our platform will [give you] all you need to train in your favorite sport without being on the ice, in a baseball diamond, or dodging tackles on an actual football field," explains Bob Tetiva, founder and CEO of Sense Arena. "You'll be training on a virtual field instead."

His company's VR solution will cost between $200 and $2,000 per month, depending on the number of users, range of modules, and the variety of drills included. While that's not exactly cheap, it's a cost many youth sports programs, which are highly-competitive but under increasing pressure to limit unnecessary contact scenarios, will be likely to consider.

Sense Arena created a hockey training program specifically for CES. If you're in Vegas, stop by their booth in the Eureka Park Marketplace for a cool hands-on look at the future of athletic training.

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