The new technologies of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are set to change the fitness industry if the current trend continues. Both VR and AR have threatened to do something interesting for years now. But this time the promise might turn into VR products that consumers can use. Your gym members may soon demand fitness equipment that allows them to connect to digitally rendered worlds and games while they work out.
Digital devices and smartphones have changed the way consumers use technology; they don’t think twice about exploring and testing new apps. Keeping up with your neighbor means having the current version of the iPhone or a cool Android phone. The next step is games and environments that put you inside 3D virtual worlds.
Even so, the talk does need to have some follow-through that is slow in coming as yet. The buzz about VR and AR began to build in 2016, and we need to see some practical implementations soon. The potential for VR in fitness is vast. As long as the virtual image responds to your movements like you are in the real world the experience is overwhelming.
Understanding Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality
I have a theory that, on average, if you put more than seven people in a room together the majority of them will drift into looking at their phone or tablet. That insight comes from my recent people-watching experiences.
As a society, we are now more engaged with the digital realm than with the physical world around us. VR seems to extend the trend of being conscious of the digital world and removed from the present moment in reality. When you enter VR, it is just an immersive video game environment, one that you can interact with but not as structured.
The game in VR is whatever the script and imagery are for the application that’s projecting onto your headset. With VR you can be on a treadmill, Stairmaster, rowing machine, or any other equipment and visually you experience the open road, climbing a mountain, or rowing on the river. The details and beauty of the artificial environments come from the imaginations of the VR designers.
Some Of The Most Successful VR Brands So Far
The form factors of current VR headsets are similar to smartphones and, at the minimalist extreme, the Google Cardboard is just an arrangement of straps, cardboard cutout casing, and lenses that hold an Android Phone in your field of vision. Headsets should be wireless to eliminate cumbersome harnesses, which will be wearable devices and part of the Internet of Things. Any delay or lag will turn the experience from fun to nauseating for the sake of a fraction of a second.
Oculus Rift – This headset equipment led the way, with crowdsourcing origins on Kickstarter. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion and has continued development for the platform.
HTC Vive – HTC designed the Vive headset in collaboration with a gaming company for low latency. Reviews of the Vive praise it for working well without inducing motion sickness for users.
Sony PS VR – The companion VR headset for the Sony PlayStation is less expensive and lighter than its competitors. The PS VR goes after the gamer market, which might make it best fit to integrate into fitness equipment.
Will Gym Members Get Lost Working Out In Virtual Worlds?
I think that the trend in VR glasses design is going to follow on from the HoloLens. This set of glasses doesn’t completely block your vision and are light enough not to threaten whiplash if you turn too quickly. They don’t have that "toaster" look, and you can potentially shift from reality to virtual reality and into augmented reality just by controlling the tint of the lens.
Practical applications and working systems in VR/AR need supporting technologies that include IoT, wearables, and cloud computing. The shared experiences that are possible in VR depend on the Cloud and fast network connections to work when members interact remotely.
Keep an eye on the apps that equipment companies are developing. Also, be aware of apps by third-party developers and startups that launch products and services that integrate VR and gym equipment; there are bound to be some unexpected successes. To see how VR will change what it means to be “at” the gym, take a look at this virtual wing-suit flying simulator video from Futurism.com. It might be somewhat gratuitous but shows the sort of equipment to order for your gym very soon.
Caddy, Becca. Is VR about to reinvent how we work out? February 7, 2017. https://www.wareable.com/vr/virtual-reality-reinvent-fitness-9887 (accessed February 12, 2017).
Fagan, Lawrence. The Latest And Greatest In Commercial Gym Equipment. September 9, 2014. https://blog.gyminsight.com/2919-the-latest-and-greatest-in-commercial-gym-equipment/ (accessed February 12, 2017).
Futurism.com. The Hypersuit’s Creators Say It Can Train Military Pilots. https://futurism.com/videos/the-hypersuits-creators-say-it-can-train-military-pilots/ (accessed February 12, 2017).
Google. Google Cardboard. https://vr.google.com/cardboard/ (accessed February 12, 2017).
Lamkin, Paul. The best VR headsets: The top virtual reality devices to go and buy now. January 17, 2017. https://www.wareable.com/headgear/the-best-ar-and-vr-headsets (accessed February 12, 2017).