NEW YORK — It’s something of a little kid’s dreams. You’re mounted on a pegasus flying high above a forest, collecting jewels as you weave around trees. You’re riding a horse and lassoing cowboys on a dirt road in the Wild West. You’re shooting at tanks on a snowy battlefield.
These are but a few of the collection of games that will soon be available in virtual reality through VR fitness gaming platform VirZOOM, as part of a new partnership with cardio equipment manufacturer Life Fitness that seeks to gamify the workout experience.
The pegasuses, bikes and tanks are powered by a fitness center cycling machine. The pedaling in real life directly correlates to the movement of these objects in the game. The more effort a user exerts and the faster they pedal, the faster the tank will travel or higher the pegasus will fly.
Catch a cowboy with a lasso and a stationary bike.
The resistance buttons on the handlebars are repurposed as gameplay controls, which let the user capture or shoot at objects in the game. To increase the cardio difficulty level, virtual resistance controls can be added into the game and changed manually.
Life Fitness, one of the world’s biggest makers of treadmills, ellipticals and indoor bikes that as of recently can be synced with Apple Watch, will pitch this add-on “immersive fitness” experience to the gyms and universities that already use its equipment.
The experience can be powered either by using a Samsung Gear mobile headset, which is tethered to the machine, or an Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset that’s untethered.
An immersive new way to exercise.
Both would be connected to the VirZOOM Module, which plugs into an existing port on Life Fitness’ top-of-the-line Lifecycle stationary bike and offers access to VR content and a cloud-based software system that can receive updates and fresh content. Users can also engage with multi-player games and compete alongside or against riders at other gyms.
“VirZOOM motivates exercisers with fun and immersive virtual reality exercise content,” Spencer Honeyman, vice president of strategic partnerships at VirZOOM, said in a statement. “Exercisers can not only set calorie goals and track workout stats, but also compete online against friends around the world and enjoy a VR workout.”
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If wearing a sweat-logged headset sounds repulsive, fitness centers will be provided with sweatproof virtual reality headset covers that can be machine-washed daily, similar to how towels are cleaned in gyms.
This is VirZOOM’s second product related to immersive exercise but its first foray into the business-to-business market. In early 2016, it launched an at-home exercise bike that could be hooked up with its virtual reality gaming platform. Earlier this year, it launched virtual reality sports competitions that integrate with its bikes and Fitbit fitness trackers.
At the time, it announced a co-marketing and pilot partnership with Life Fitness that enabled the gameplay to be used with existing fitness equipment at commercial fitness facilities. Since then, a number of fitness centers have permanently installed the platform, including YMCA branches in the U.S. and Australia, as well as Pure Fitness in Asia.
The Life Fitness and VirZOOM partnership opens the potential for vSports competitions at a global scale. Soon, the companies plan to begin hosting virtual reality competitions for prizes at gyms around the world.
“There are more than 2 million workouts on Life Fitness cardio equipment every day and we’re always innovating to make more immersive, engaging and enjoyable workouts on our equipment,” said Jason Worthy, vice president of digital solutions and innovation at Life Fitness. “Gyms are changing as we know it, and our customers are more connected than ever. We’re creating personalized and fun experiences in fitness facilities, and VirZOOM is an excellent partner in making the gym of the future a reality.”