How Real is Virtual Reality's Fitness Potential


By: Steve Wilson

We’re still fairly early on in the so-called age of virtual reality, and already there are some excellent fitness experiences available. You can find all kinds of descriptions of them and explanations for them, but the basic idea is that for many of us, fitness is dull and monotonous, and routines are difficult to stick to. VR can help to mitigate these issues and keep us motivated in new ways. As exciting as all of this has already become however one can’t help but wonder what more there might be, and how real the potential of VR fitness is.It seems almost certain that there will be some developments coming that we simply aren’t aware of. However, simply by looking at the landscape of virtual reality right now, we can point to a few ways in which the concept of VR fitness will soon be expanding. 

Partnerships With Original Machines


For the most part, existing VR fitness experiences rely only on headsets, with minimal equipment. They’re simply meant to direct one’s exercise in a fairly low-maintenance manner. However, there are some early examples of VR partnering with exercise machines to do a little bit more. Most notably, there are stationary bikes that connect with VR to simulate cycling experiences, and there is one very exciting new company called ICAROS that has built a whole new type of contraption that uses VR to create a gaming experience that also involves exercise. It’s likely that we’ll soon be seeing more partnerships between VR and additional original workout machines, expanding the potential of fitness in virtual reality.

VR Gym Facilities

One of VR’s capabilities that is only just making itself clear is that it can create entire digital venues for entertainment, rather than just individual games. One might imagine for instance a virtual arcade in which various individual games (perhaps including some old arcade classics like Pac-Man or Mortal Kombat) are available around the 3D facility. Similarly, we’re likely to see virtual casinos, filled not only with roulette wheels and different card tables, but also some of the animated slots that have thrived in their digital capacity already. Taking this idea of VR facilities and considering fitness, there is also some potential for expansion in this area. While it’s hard to imagine how equipment could effectively be integrated, we can imagine in-VR gyms in which different challenges and automated classes are being held in different corners of a virtual space. 

Live Gym Facilities With VR


Just as we may see the creation of virtual gyms within VR headsets, there are also going to be physical, real-life gym facilities that offer VR fitness experiences. This is actually something that’s happening on the arcade front already, in that there are places opening up specifically to allow people to pay and enjoy VR games. And we’ve actually started to hear of early gym experiments as well. The most notable is “Black Box,” which is coming this spring to San Francisco, and which will “transform your life through addictive fitness experiences that harness the power of immersive technologies.” It’s a little bit unclear as to what the specific exercise experiences will be like, but this is the general idea of a live, VR-infused gym the likes of which we expect to see moving forward. Considering these different types of potential innovations, there does seem to be very real potential for VR fitness to emerge as a sort of new category in the exercise industry. How effective it will be will likely be determined on a case-by-case basis, but regardless it will be exciting to see what VR fitness looks like in another few years. 

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