virtual reality exercise games

Technology brings personal fitness to virtual reality world

Unsurprisingly, fitness equipment manufacturers have found a way to take advantage of 21st century technology. They offer streaming and on-demand classes with trainers urging you to go beyond what you could do if you were left alone. Peloton already had a big share of the exercise bike market when it introduced interactive classes at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018. That same year, “smart” mirrors with motion-detection technology and feedback entered the home workout market. Mirror, Tempo, and Tonal are prime examples, the latter claiming its users are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Michelle Wie.

Technology has also led to exercises in virtual reality environments – from the comfort of your home. People with Oculus headsets can download apps that turn hand controllers into lasers, boxing gloves and bats to hit and dodge oncoming targets and obstacles.

Launched in April 2020, Supernatural is a subscription-based app that turns a full-body workout into a game. Surrounded by “real” and imaginary outdoor environments, the user stands on a virtual reality mat, hits approaching targets with their VR bats or boxing gloves, and squats or leans as indicated by triangles and bars. Offered fresh daily and archived for later selection, the sessions are broken up into songs with voice over coaching/encouragement.

Leanne Pedante, Supernatural’s head of fitness, points out that the combination of coaching, music and scenery can’t be found in typical training sources like gyms and hiking. But the “magic formula,” she says, goes beyond that.

“It’s so immersive that you have no choice but to actually be there. You don’t sit on a treadmill watching television or checking your e-mail. You cannot multitask. That is a mental health gain.” (Supernatural’s repertoire also includes meditation and stretching sessions.)

“We see it as our task to make exercise as fun as possible for as many people as possible”, adds Pedante. “Flow” and boxing are offered in a range of low to professional intensity, geared to music genres from classical to hard rock.

“There’s not one type of person this type of training is for,” Pedante says, noting that Supernatural’s Facebook community is about six decades old. “It’s great to see people redefining what they think is possible for them. I have never seen anywhere on the internet where people are so nice and supportive.”

Another app, FitXR, includes options for boxing, dancing, and HIIT (high-intensity interval training). As with Supernatural, routines of varying intensities are set to music with voiceover encouragement in faux environments.

Home workouts can be challenging for those lacking self-motivation, but the technological capabilities of involving a virtual coach can make a difference.

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