As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I always dreaded that dreary day each year when my bike became a seasonal garage ornament. I love biking. Always have. It never occurred to me that virtual reality could one day be my ticket to keep on pedaling in any weather.
Beyond inclement weather, VR is also believed to provide other benefits to fitness regimens. Daniel Mestre, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, has this to say about the benefits of of exercising in virtual reality.
Coupling exercise to virtual reality results in a more enjoyable experience by contextualizing the exercise… It notably distracts the participant from exercise-induced pain.
The Wii Fit has given us a taste of how successful VR fitness could become. Unfortunately, we’re still a few years away from Parzival’s gym simulation in Ready Player One. And since seated experiences have dominated this first wave of consumer virtual reality, it makes perfect sense for developers to start on the bike. Here are a are a few companies entering the VR cycling market in different ways. Their implementations range from relatively small devices working in conjunction with your existing bike to massive shared cave experiences.
These guys just unveiled an ‘Immersive Fitness’ class in Hong Kong. Members will have access to a $500,000 cycling studio, which is essentially a big spinning CAVE. Colin Grant, the CEO and co-founder of Pure Group calls it “the gamification of exercise.” Gamified workouts aren’t a new concept, and the video below is a little painful to watch, but it’s easy to look at the spin studio and imagine how well the right visuals on a 270 degree screen could keep you focused and motivated on a stationary bike.
This is a company out of Norway who has taken the idea of a tablet mounted on a stationary bike to the next level with the Ebove. Like your Mom’s dusty old exercise bike, the platform lays flat on the floor at all times, but the cool thing about the Ebove is that the bike has only a single point of attachment. This allows you to crank on it around corners and get the real feeling of going up and down hills. The experience is further heightened when you take advantage of their Oculus Rift integration. Unfortunately, the Ebove won’t be available for you to purchase for a long time. The first place you’ll be able to access them will likely be a big gym chain, and even that timeline isn’t certain.
Widerun is working on the most accessible solution of the bunch, serving as a virtual reality conduit between your existing bike and the Oculus Rift. It looks like a futuristic version of the cycling trainers you may have seen in your lycra loving buddy’s garage. If I were still living in the PNW, this would be my pick. If you’re ready to hit the road in VR cycling, you have one week left to back them on Kickstarter.
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