Aaron Stanton, a Silicon Valley angel investor and startup advisor with a focus on virtual and augmented reality, is involved with the VR Health Institute. He says players in the fitness industry will soon engage in an arms race for VR fitness market share.
“In five years, there won’t be a gym in the U.S. that doesn’t have some component of virtual or augmented reality,” Stanton says.
Dozens of aerobic-based virtual reality fitness games are already available on virtual reality platforms such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Players use wands or gloves to execute calorie-burning actions, such as throwing punches, swinging swords or firing a bow in a variety of games.
But no game on the market replicates a weightlifting workout. Black Box VR hopes to change that.
The company plans to open its own boutique gyms, starting this year with a pilot gym in San Francisco. Users will step into a personal room — a black box — where they will put on an HTC Vive VR headset and calibrate the various cable machines to their height and strength. The system will remember the user’s workout history and calibrate the various exercises to provide the appropriate resistance, which will gradually increase with the user’s fitness. An in-game trainer will coach the player through exercise techniques to ensure effectiveness and safety. If a player completes only, say, six of 12 reps, the resulting attack won’t be as strong.
The idea, Lewis says, is that users level up in their game as they level up their bodies, creating a gratifying feedback loop that rewards their effort.
“If you level up your slash attack, you get that dopamine hit that helps you come back to the gym motivated,” he says. “The next time you come back to the gym, you’re no longer Level 5. You are Level 6, and you are actually lifting heavier weight and doing more damage in the game.”