Virtual Active iOS App Detects Your Exercycle Speed, Takes You On World Tour

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At the few times when I find myself on the bike or elliptical at the gym, I’m always frustrated by the lack of anything interesting to keep my eyes on. The TVs are showing something boring, the magazines are sweaty and old, the people too are sweaty and old, and I end up staring at the wall. Why am I telling you this? Because someone has created a solution to this particular first-world problem that seems rather promising.

It started as a sort of hack by which a Redditor connected his exercycle to his Xbox 360. Since then he’s taken what he learned there and produced an iPad app, Virtual Active, that detects how “fast” you’re going on a cycle or elliptical by measuring the vibration, and moves you at a corresponding speed through a picturesque landscape.

The creator assures me that the accelerometer is up to the task, and no configuration is necessary. You just put your iPad, iPhone, or what have you on the bike, treadmill, or elliptical, and it figures itself out. I’ll believe it when I see it, of course, but it sounds real enough.

It’s free to download, but you purchase videos from different locations: the Alps, the Grand Canyon, even my own Pacific Northwest.

Potential problems: the videos themselves are expensive ($8 each) and quite large (~800MB for around a half-hour video). Gym bunnies with disposable income might lap it up, but it’s a bit expensive for those of us not as dedicated to our fitness, or not as concerned with having fun while exercising.

The BitGym technology behind the videos will expand into games and other types of video entertainment, though. The first will be Fit Freeway, which will use the accelerometer to determine speed and head tracking to steer. Don’t worry, nobody looks cool at the gym, so I doubt anyone will notice you twitching around. User-created videos and other things are on the horizon as well.

Pretty cool stuff — if it works. Nice to see a random but promising hack we covered turn into something legit. There’s more info at BitGym’s site if you’re interesting.