The idea of virtual reality fitness solutions is generating a lot of buzz lately. As we’ve begun to recognize the extent of VR’s capabilities, it’s become clearer just how the technology might impact our day-to-day lives beyond just gaming and entertainment. And some of the most regular and significant impact, it seems, may just come from VR.
VR fitness will manifest in all sorts of different products and applications, with the general idea being to provide distraction, motivation, and/or instruction for our workouts. The point will be to make exercising more fun, more regular, more effective, and less tiresome. What though, beyond these general ideas and a few early VR applications we’ve seen, should we really expect from this budding tech-fitness industry?
It’s been interesting to see that on the cusp of the VR fitness industry’s growth we’ve actually seen some other virtual workouts emerging, presenting elements of virtual reality without the actual headsets. The first to make it big was Peloton, a sort of new-age home exercise bike that comes equipped with its own tablet and a subscription to live, video feed cycling classes. The next, and newest, was Mirror, a $1,495 interactive home gym in the form of a mirror on the wall. Mirror effectively does what Peloton does but for other workouts and with more features. These two products and companies hint at the idea that VR won’t just give us things to do while working out, but will show us how to work out, by way of virtual trainers. We’ll feel just like they’re with us in person, when in reality they’re simply programs meant to help us along.
Simple Progression Systems
In the early years of VR, we’ve seen that the real thrill is simply being in a virtual environment, as much as what we actually do there. Thus, the simple act of moving through a VR world can feel like a special treat or reward. This is actually exemplified not by the complex, expensive games at the high end of VR, but by some of the simplest, arcade-style ones. Gonzo’s Quest is a hit slot arcade from NetEnt that was among the first in its genre to advance to VR, and it is based on the simplest of progression systems. A golden temple is in the background, and as you play you knock out obstacles en route to it. Says the game’s description, by giving you something to focus on, it “creates a better sense of engagement” and a desire to keep playing for longer. This exact principle can and will be applied to workouts. VR will present us with simple yet tantalizing goals, objectives, and the like, and allow us to inch toward them through fitness accomplishments, incentivizing us to keep going back for more.
Expenses Beyond VR Headsets
One of the things that’s stopped VR from having a bigger impact on consumers to this point is price. The truly impressive headsets cost more than some nice flat-screen televisions, and even some of the newer, more affordable models will still run you about the price of your game console. Unfortunately, fitness is probably only going to add to those costs given that in many if not most cases it will require pairing VR to another machine or piece of equipment. In some cases, as with the $99 VirZOOM device, a cheaper VR headset designed for a specific purpose can facilitate this pairing – by, say, turning your exercise bike into a VR peripheral. But you still need to buy a bike, or access to one. In other cases, equipment will be sold to work in conjunction with a VR headset you already have, and a downloaded fitness program.
We’re only beginning to see the first hints of VR fitness spaces set aside for member use. In other words, we’re starting to see VR gyms coming to be. It’s hard to say if these will become their own chains and popular establishments or if it’s more likely that VR-equipped spaces will start to be built into existing gyms. However, it’s a very good bet that, particularly given some of the expenses just discussed, a strong market will develop for membership experiences by which we can go to public places and engage in virtual reality workouts we might not be able to do at home.