Sense Arena is stepping into tennis with Martina Navratilova as brand ambassador for their new virtual reality game.
Sense Arena is in the beginning steps of expanding beyond the hockey rink.
The virtual reality and technology company that boats the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Las Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes as partners will enter the tennis world next month with Sense Arena for Tennis.
To help gain credibility in the tennis community, Sense, which will cost $200, enlisted 59-time major title winner Martina Navratilova as a global tennis ambassador.
Boardroom spoke with Navratilova and Sense Arena CEO Bob Tetiva at a demo in New York City.
“I saw how great it was for hockey and thought it would work pretty well for tennis,” Navratilova said. “When I tried it out I was totally sold, it’s so realistic. The racket is smaller but it feels like a real one. There’s a lot of potential for growth that can be done on it.”
Navratilova compared the product favorably against playing tennis on Nintendo’s Wii system from 2006.
“I sucked at Wii because it was so unreal. If you practice on it you become a better Wii player but not a better tennis player,” she said. “If you practice on Sense you become a better tennis player. There’s no comparison. It mimics tennis better than anything I’ve ever seen.”
Neither Navratilova nor Sense Arena founder and CEO Bob Tetiva recall who reached out to whom first, but both say they were interested in one another because both parties are from the Czech Republic.
“She always looks at how to find the edge and be better than competitors,” Tetiva said. “She told us that physically everybody is on the same level but now it’s about the mental training. Things like whether you’re in the flow of the game and whether you can make the right decision at the right time matter, and Sense Arena can help with that.”
As far as the outreach of Sense, so far the company says it has 2,500 systems across 40 countries with 10,000 individual players placing the device on their heads.
The company is still booting up, but raised a $3 million investment round that J&T Ventures led in August.
“We believe that Sense Arena has only scratched the surface of its potential,” Martin Kešner, co-founder of J&T Ventures, said in a release. “We are excited to help them elevate their technology and increase its application around the sports world.”
Sense has raised a total of $5.5 million.
“My biggest objective is to make this as real as possible. I don’t want to create a video game that’s just playing by the controllers,” Tetiva said with a smile. “I hope that the overall VR market and the number of people having headsets at home grow and we are part of that. We are going to do our part.”