VR game aims to make you forget you're lifting real weights
Standing chest presses at a standard gym usually mean staring at a wall, a mirror, the floor, just about anywhere to avoid awkward eye-contact with your fellow sweaty, red-faced exercisers. It’s about as far from an immersive virtual reality experience as you can get.
“Video games as exercise” is not a new concept. Dance Dance Revolution has been around since the 1990s, for example. Now, an Idaho-based startup called Black Box VR is aiming to take that idea to the next level by combining virtual reality and resistance training.
With Black Box VR, those mundane chest presses are also your best defence against enemies in a virtual arena. By extending your arms, engaging your chest and shoulder muscles, you can launch projectiles to stop a barrage of meteor-like objects being hurtled your way.
“It’s a completely different experience. When you’re at the gym, you’re focused on time. You’re focused on getting through it. It’s boring,” Ryan Deluca, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “Inside e-sports and video games, you want to continue to play, and you are focused on what you are doing.”
He may have a point. The World Health Organization recently announced it will include a condition called “gaming disorder” in its latest International Classification of Diseases. No similar plans have been announced regarding weightlifting.
“You come out of it and you realize that you worked harder than you ever would have at the gym,” Deluca said of the workout experience.
Promotional materials on the company’s website suggest Black Box VR will incorporate plenty of video game-style motivators to keep you focused on the play and not the pain -- things like scores, strength levels, and mythical creatures.
“Muscle groups are represented by elements. Exercises that work the legs, for example, are associated with water, and will have corresponding effects in the game,” the description reads. “An athlete’s overall rank is represented by the lowest of these elements. This incentivizes players to develop well-rounded, functional physiques.”
The game itself comes through an HTC Vive headset, and uses motion tracking bands. The real-world weightlifting is done with proprietary exercise hardware that looks similar to cable-based gym equipment.
“It allows us to give you up to 120 pounds of resistance per arm,” Deluca said. “It’s not for kids. It’s definitely a serious fitness device that will really transform your body and help you lose fat and gain muscle.”
The company recently turned heads at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Black Box VR was named a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree.
Deluca said the company plans to open its first VR gym in San Francisco in August, ahead of a broader U.S. roll-out.