My favorite game was, weirdly, the Pegasus. It’s amazing how willing your mind is to believe that you’re a winged horse for a few glorious moments while riding an exercise bike in a Los Angeles hotel suite. Toss in a floor fan and the effect would pretty much be complete. I’m willing to give our proximity to Hollywood most of the credit here.
The VirZoom is a pretty simple and smart solution to the problem of locomotion in virtual reality. It’s more or less an off-the-shelf stationary folding bike with some key sensors built in that let it play nicely with the VR headset of your choosing (the Vive, in the case of the demo we got last week at E3).
“The base platform is an exercise bike, but on top of that, we’ve added a lot of different sensors and features to make it a game controller,” explained the company’s founder, Eric Janszen. “It’s got heart rate sensors, so it can measure your heart rate which is a good proxy along with resistance and distance, to figure out how many calories you’re burning.”
The system, which is currently available online for $399 (with in-store retail availability coming later this year), ships with six games – the aforementioned Pegasus title, plus a tank, race car, helicopter, horse lassoing games, and one involving a pollinating dragonfly, for some strange reason. What unites all the games is the fact that none actually involve cycling.
“The first thing people think when they see this bike is a bike simulation,” explains Janszen. “The reason we didn’t do that is that it’s a very broad palette for games. If you’re not limiting yourself to things you can do in the real world, you can do whatever you want.”
The graphics are pretty rudimentary, but that’s beside the point, really. It’s easy to lose yourself in them, between the immersion of the headset and constant movement. It’s also easy to see how VR could very well usher in a new area of fitness games not seen since the Wii first got our lazy butts off the couch.