Virtual reality is finally poised to make its way into the sports world, as the Sense Arena VR hockey training system brings professional hockey training without ice. It offers the authentic look of playing hockey, but even more importantly, it offers the authentic feel that a player could only get from being on the ice.
We should note that while the system was awesome, it’s not meant for your average hockey player to have in their home. Rather, this system is designed to be used by hockey organizations as a way of practicing thousands of repetitions without the risk of injury that comes from actual hockey training.
This is just one example of cool ways to use virtual reality, but it’s definitely the one that impressed me most.
Sense Arena Specs
Before we jump into the experience of using the Sense Arena for ourselves, let’s talk break down a bit about what the system actually is.
First of all, it’s using a Vive Pro at the core of its virtual reality system. It’s also using a custom-designed hockey stick to let you get the feel of the puck like you would in a game.
The minimum room size to use Sense Arena is 16 X 16 feet, though the creators said that the ideal amount of space is 25 X 25 feet. For the hardware, buyers will need an HTC Vive Pro virtual reality system with the wireless adapter, trackers, and extra base stations. Users will also need the Sense Arena hockey sticks, the Sense Arena system kiosk, and a gaming PC with an NVIDIA 1080 GPU.
Thankfully, the company sells packs with everything you’ll need to get started.
Hands-On with Sense Arena
I started playing hockey 22 years ago, so I have a bit of experience with the sport. I should also say that I’ve never been much of a supporter of virtual reality, as I consider myself something of a traditional gamer.
I was a little skeptical before I put the headset on, as hockey doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you can practice off the ice. You really need to feel the puck on your stick. Or so I thought.
I have to say that I was completely blown away with the demo offered by Sense Arena. Not only did it look great, but it felt amazing. The first time I reached out with the hockey stick and pulled the puck towards myself, I was shocked by the sense of weight that it had. It felt much closer to stick handling and shooting a puck than I ever imagined it would.
Even cooler is the ability to take shots on a goalie and receive passes without any other players there. Hockey isn’t an easy sport to practice alone, but this system makes it totally possible.
There are over 70 different drills included with Sense Arena and I was able to try two—a one-time shot drill and a more basic drill where you receive the pass and take the shot (I managed to score five goals during the second drill).
Sense Arena Availability
Sense Arena is no small investment. There are two versions of the Sense Arena platform available. First, the VR Hardware Pro pack includes an HTC Vive Pro, two extra HTC lighthouses, four trackers, one wireless adapter, a VR ready PC with a touch monitor. That one sells for $5,480 with a $199 a month subscription.
The cheaper version comes with everything included in the Pro pack except it has two fewer lighthouses and two fewer trackers.
Both are available for purchase right now. Sense Arena has a detailed breakdown of the pricing structure on its website.
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