Strapping a VR headset to my face and taking a seat on an exercise bike isn’t my idea of fun, but fun was exactly what was served up when I tried out VirZOOM’s platform. A cycling game was obvious, given the input mechanism, but a flying pegasus and a tank game were not. The games were both eye-openers in terms of exercise and VR, making it more than the sum of its parts.
The company has been demoing its setup for a while, but the big news is that it’s now possible to order the $399 VirZOOM bike controller for your own enjoyment. You pair the bike with Playstation VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and the VirZOOM Arcade software is free to download on the PlayStation Network and Steam.
The company announced a partnership with Life Fitness, a brand you’ll probably recognize from a gym. The companies have signed a co-marketing and pilot partnership to launch the VirZOOM Module to transform existing Life Fitness Platinum Club Series and Elevation Series Discover SE3 bike models into Virtual Reality bikes compatible with VirZOOM Arcade. The integration means VirZOOM software is able to access data from Life Fitness bikes such as pedal speed, resistance buttons and heart rate to enable VirZOOM gameplay. Super smart.
VirZOOM further upped its exercise cred by announcing an integration with Fitbit, through the Works with Fitbit program. The integration means that you are given credit for your VR bike rides directly in your Fitbit app, where each session is logged as a workout, and includes duration, distance pedaled and calories burned. You can further augment the experience by wearing a heart-rate-enabled Fitbit device; if you do, the Fitbit heart rate data will also be captured in your exercise log in the Fitbit app.
I’m not a particularly big fan of VR and my hatred for exercise is both sizeable and acute, but somehow this combo worked wonders. Being in VR where your (virtual) life depends on out-cycling another tank might just be the one thing that’ll make me pedal that tiny bit faster.
My one reservation is that headsets — and especially in the public locations that VirZOOM are currently looking to take on — can get pretty damn gross pretty damn quickly. Add half a gallon of sweat from an enthusiastic Tour De France-like session to the mix, and I can’t imagine the headsets will be beacons of hygiene for long.