Devils Sign VR Deal as Cognitive Training Takes Off in Pandemic

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Jacob Feldman
·2 min read
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The New Jersey Devils and virtual reality training company Sense Arena have signed a deal that will bring the team’s new official cognitive training tool to both Devils pros and youth hockey players.

Sense Arena offers evaluation and training modules designed to improve both skaters’ and goalies’ decision-making abilities and reaction times without having to step onto the ice. Users wearing a VR headset are put onto the virtual ice, where they can react to simulated plays and attempt to stop realistic shots.

The Devils’ performance department will implement the software, while activations are planned within Prudential Center as well as throughout New Jersey to go with digital content sponsorship.

“Sense Arena’s ability to hone skills critical to overall player improvement and peak performance in an off-ice simulation is an edge for players at all levels of our organization,” Devils vice president of athlete care Chris Stackpole said. “The focus on simulating game action without requiring the on-ice setting is an added resource to benefit our players’ training.”

Two trends—rink closures due to COVID-19 and cheaper, high-quality virtual reality hardware—have brought VR training to the fore.

Sense Arena, which launched its first tool for PC-powered VR headsets in 2019, reached new consumers last year after releasing its goalie tool for the standalone Oculus Quest. It plans to add capability for all players in June and has now been installed more than 1,000 times.

Sense Arena founder and CEO Bob Tetiva said the company has raised more than $3 million in seed funding to help him possibly settle the argument over whether greats, like Wayne Gretzky, were born with a sixth sense on the ice.

“I strongly believe it can be developed,” Tetiva said. “You just need to have the right environment. That, for us, is VR.”

VR also allows players to get reps, either while rehabbing or while avoiding unneeded physical strain. For kids, it can provide a more active gaming experience, as well as improved access year round. Tetiva said Sense Arena is thinking about when to expand into other sports as well.

“This should be a new category in athletic training,” he said.

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