4 startups transforming the fitness landscape with VR technology

Spice up your workout routine with VR technology to make it more engaging, convenient and fun!

Virtual reality (VR) technology has revolutionized many industries, and the fitness industry is no exception. By leveraging the immersive and interactive nature of VR technology, many startups have created unique, customizable, and engaging workout experiences for users that traditional workout routines can’t match. A 2020 research paper published in the British Journal of Health Psychology also supports the notion that VR technology can make exercise more enjoyable and less strenuous for users.

Aside from the benefits of engagement, VR fitness offers users the ability to do guided exercises anytime from the comfort of their own homes. It allows users to tailor their workouts to fit their lifestyle and not the other way around. This is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and stay-at-home measures were in place. Additionally, VR fitness is a better option for those who are uncomfortable exercising in public spaces like gyms and gyms.

In this article, we’ll examine four startups using the power of VR technology to reinvent fitness.

VirZoom Image courtesy of VirZoom

Cambridge-based video game startup VirZoom is using VR technology to inspire users to shed those extra pounds by playing with their VZ stationary bike. Compatible with popular headsets such as PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the VZ-Bike features speed and direction sensors as well as imaginative games that engage users’ calf muscles and provide a surreal experience.

The VR games offer different modes that users can explore by pedaling on the stationary exercise bike. These modes include driving a tank on a snowy trail, racing in a Formula 1 car and even riding the mythical Greek flying horse Pegasus.

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Launched in 2016, the exercise bike was marketed for home use and came with five VR games as a bundle deal for $399, making it an affordable and practical option. In 2018, the startup shifted its focus from making bikes to concentrating on VR gear. They launched the VZFit kit, which includes a VR headset, TV display, and sensors that attach to any stationary bike.

Black Box VR Image courtesy of Black Box VR

Founded in 2016 by Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, Black Box VR is the world’s first VR gym that uses VR technology to transform traditional eSports into a full-body physical workout. The idea behind the company is to make exercise more engaging and addictive by creating an immersive experience that feels like a game.

Black Box VR’s fitness facilities feature individual training cabins with a fully automatic cable resistance machine, VR hardware and eSports software. The resistance machine provides users with strength training capabilities, and the VR hardware and eSports software create an immersive gaming experience. This allows them to integrate their functional training into imaginative areas. For example, gym members can train to save a city or discover treasure, experience the resistance of virtual objects in the real world, and use their bodies as controllers.

It comes with a companion app that streamlines workout planning and cabin reservations. When it’s time for their workout, they can simply put on the high-tech VR headset and immerse themselves in various simulations that seamlessly integrate with the movements of their physical training routines.

The company uses HTC Vive Pro technology to offer users an intense and fully customized workout experience, tailored to their fitness level and preferences. Whether users are new to exercise or seasoned fitness enthusiasts, the VR workout the company offers is an experience like no other.

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BoxVR image courtesy of FitXR

BoxVR is a VR fitness game developed by British startup FitXR. The game combines boxing workouts with music rhythm based gameplay to provide an immersive and effective workout experience while you beat to the beat of your favorite music.

Upon launching the game, users must enter their age and weight to access the selection of workouts, which are categorized by duration, ranging from around five to ten minutes to an extended hour of non-stop virtual boxing. Besides boxing, BoxVR also offers users a wide range of different workout options curated by fitness trainers. These options range from short three-minute warm-ups to longer cardio workouts of 20+ minutes. The game records each workout and estimates the number of calories burned over time.

BoxVR is compatible with the PlayStation VR headset and can be played on the PS5 console, allowing users to enjoy the game’s immersive VR experience on the latest Sony gaming hardware.

Icaros GmbH Image courtesy of Icaros

In 2015, Icaros GmbH, a German startup, developed a VR training device designed for both the gym and home use. This innovative fitness system allows users to perform Pilates-like workouts while immersed in a VR environment that simulates the sensation of flying or diving deep into the ocean. Throughout the workout experience, users maintain a horizontal, plank-like position while floating through various virtual environments, making it a highly engaging and unique way of exercising.

The Icaros motion platform and integrated controller make up the system with specialized apps for different headsets like Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The company’s VR apps offer a range of experiences including flying, diving, freefall and competing with other Icaros pilots worldwide in the form of the company’s multiplayer online race, ICARACE.

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To operate the system, users position their elbows, forearms, and knees in padded cups, don a VR headset, and grasp a handle with each hand. The primary control mode is to use the core muscles in the abdomen, back and legs to tilt the device for navigation during flight or dive simulation. Additionally, players can use a handheld controller to fire targets during gameplay.

These innovative startups break away from traditional exercise methods and open up new possibilities for fitness through VR technology. Their engaging and immersive experiences are revolutionizing the way people approach physical activity, making it more enjoyable and motivating. Despite obstacles such as the high cost of VR devices and the need to educate consumers, the promising benefits of VR fitness suggest it could become a leading force in the fitness industry. The rise of VR fitness offers the opportunity to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds and enable people to achieve their fitness goals in exciting ways.

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