CES is upon us, and a new dimension is open in VR and VR Fitness trends. The show is all about establishing the consumer electronics trends of tomorrow, showing off how we might use our appliances or view our world.
So, what has CES taught us about the future of VR?
The quick and short version is that the platform is still developing, but there’s a greater emphasis on user experience. Tomorrow’s VR will be smoother, run more efficiently, and integrate with our world in ways that have been hinted at but not yet realized. We’re seeing a major push for the mainstream in the form of all-in-one headsets and exercise equipment from big brands.
When The L.A. Times says VR arcades and location-based experiences are what’s hopefully going to save America’s malls, studios like Survios are answering that call with VR tournaments and fight nights. Do you think location-based VR experiences, games, and attractions will get more people off the sofa?
Here are some of the most important impacts coming to the world of VR Fitness.
The Quest and Vive’s Focus
The big deal last year was The Vive Pro and the promise of wireless, which we did eventually see towards the end of 2018. In 2019, the big buzz is around all-in-one headsets that offer 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF). This new tech is being touted as the ideal solution for mid-range VR gaming, and the Oculus Quest is showing promise. It’s running demos of Superhot as crisply as on a Vive. HTC is also demoing its Vive Focus , the 6DOF headset that is standalone and meant to compete with the Quest.
The two biggest companies in VR creating midrange, standalone hardware is a fairly big deal. Especially when you consider that the Quest is $399 all-in-one. If Oculus, the company behind the Quest, can get more development pouring into the headset then this thing is a steal. Any room becomes a potential VR playspace, but the Quest and Focus will still require some floor space to move around.
The VR Cardboard launched by Google was a Side Project developed by David Coz and Damien Henry. They created this project during the Google’s “Innovation Time Off” program in which developers were encouraged to spend 20 percent of their time on the things of their interest.
The Quest and Focus are the big names, but the Atraxa and a host of Chinese companies all offer varying promises of wireless VR. Atraxa stands out because of its focus on VR fitness. It comes packaged with applications that take advantage of its wireless movement and focus on physically testing the user.
Just your typical #CES2019 attendee trying out Atraxa! Notice how seamlessly Atraxa tracks these incredibly fast, dynamic movements. It’s #AR #VR motion tracking at its best! Visit us in Booth 21846, South Hall 1, LVCC for a demo. pic.twitter.com/5UdmYCXf4U — NDI (@ndimeasurement)
Haptics and Feedback
A big development from 2018 back for this year is the Teslasuit. This year, the focus is on enterprise use cases, but the ambitious suit offers some incredible technology fitness enthusiasts will love. Think climate controlled and custom-tailored, with biometrics and motion capture technology.
The suit also employs EMS, or electrical muscle stimulation, to help rehabilitate or correct form. Much like a chiropractor employing electrical stimulation on sore muscles, the Teslasuit can work specific muscle groups. It can also correct motor function in real time, teaching athletes how to run or move with less strain on the body.
Is this tomorrow’s gym wear of choice? We think so.
More Mobility Too
Not to be understated is the concept of mobility itself. Mobile VR is a great way to bring the experience with you, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the locomotion challenge. VR feels great when you can move and interact with the complex worlds developers have built. With Cybershoes , you can move around in virtual worlds without feeling constrained.
No Single Person Invented Virtual Reality. Virtual reality enthusiasts can’t point to a single person who is responsible for the creation of VR. Instead, many people contributed to the technology’s growth. There are at least five people who can lay significant claim to the title: Morton Heilig, Jaron Lanier, Douglas Engelbart, Ivan Sutherland, and Myron Krueger.
Players can be seated, walk across treadmills or in place to physically move in the virtual world. No hand/wand tricks required. Just don’t forget to “equip” your shoes before you set out on your adventure.
Exercise Tech | The Consumer Push
A huge surprise announcement this year is that Nordictrack is getting into the VR space. A new exercise bike, which comes with a Vive Focus, features several gamified workouts a la VirZOOM. The demo at CES had players pedaling a Steampunk bicycle to fly between island worlds and huge blimps.
Being the Quest priced as a Rift, I don’t know how many people will still choose to buy a PC-powered Rift (Image by Ars Technica) All the newest PC VR headsets seem to target the high-end enterprise market : Star VR One, XTAL, Vive Pro, Varjo, are all devices that are very expensive (the Vive Pro kit starts from $1400, Varjo will cost more than $5000) and offer high-end features.
The three-minute demo was intense, with some reporting feeling a little more than winded when it was over. The bike has a steering yolk, so users can navigate virtual worlds intuitively, and the game design is definitely polished based on the demos.
NordicTrack wants to sell the bike at $2,000, and they may just be successful. The brand is well-known, the Vive Focus is $600 standalone, and the user gains access to an entire library of games outside of the Nordictrack fitness regiment.
Improved VR Experience
We’re already seeing Steam make updates to its VR platform that better utilize computing and graphics processing power for a smoother experience. The Oculus platform also boasts lower specs. A lot of the computer hardware on display at CES seems to suggest improved efficiency. Better, more efficient motherboards and GPU cooling systems offer improved possibilities for overclocking.
Oculus VR is a company that launched a Kickstarter project to release virtual reality goggles in the 2010s. Their goggles brought a lot of interest to virtual reality after many years of not a lot of interest by industry or consumers.
So, what do you do with this information? Invest in better cooling, and potentially a new case design. Those who recently upgraded may want to look at investing in a better motherboard and cannibalizing old parts to build a second PC.
Or do nothing at all. There’s a ton already being done on the software side that is helping lower-performance machines get a quality VR experience.
VR needs broadcasting to grow, and action cams play an important role in that growth. Wearable action cameras capture 360 degree video users can watch in VR. With 5G, this might start happening in real time. AR and VR broadcasting technology offers an insider’s view of the play, but it’s also an important coaching tool.
The difficulties in creating a VR exercise experience have been best illustrated by attempts like Black Box VR, who launched what they entitled “The World’s First Full-Fitness, Virtual Reality Gym Experience” – creating an exercise enclosure that combines a strength training cable machine, linked to a VR gaming experience that tracks the users hands for an accurate workout experience.
Consider StriVR, which relies on video capture and play review to analyze a player’s decision-making capabilities. Using 5G technology, coaches can watch a player’s perspective in real-time and relay corrective advice or strategy during practice.
But broadcasting also serves as an important introduction into the world of VR. Most people first encounter novel VR experiences watching sports or movies in virtual reality, especially on mobile devices. Audi believes that this is a luxury experience, and wants to push VR capability in the backseat of its cars for longer trips.
The VFX-1. We can’t do a list about the history of Virtual Reality and not include the VFX-1. Released in the middle of the 1990s, the VFX-1 system was one of the most capable virtual reality headsets released on the market at the time. With stereoscopic 3D, multi-axis head movement detection and rotation, and the ability to play games that were not truly supported by the system, the VFX-1 was the true Virtual Reality deal at the time. Furthermore, their price tag was relatively cheap compared to other products on the market, coming at a mere $600. However, the VFX-1 was too advanced of a technology and it didn’t really take off. Later on, the company Vuzix that made the glasses was bought by Forte Technologies, which released a more expensive VFX 3D version, but it also didn’t manage to achieve huge success.
Final Thoughts | VR Finally Goes Mainstream
An improved user experience and more ways to interact with VR all go a long way toward broadening the platform. That’s what CES 2019 most shows me about VR: we’re going mainstream. The Quest is priced perfectly and the functionality feels great. If the library grows, it could be a killer device for consumers in 2019.
I love HTC, but the Focus is a bit outpriced by the Quest. My hope is that the Focus offers a truly premium experience for the cost, but I suspect most consumers will want the Quest. However, the Focus could see wider deployment overall when paired with offerings like Nordictrack’s bike.
As VR focuses on wireless, and on physical experiences that are more immersive, it will attract much more consumer and media attention. Fitness wise, the coming year looks very promising. The Quest will attract a new class of fitness seeker, with a library of apps ready to introduce them to the wonders of VR fitness.
Now we just need all VR games to be under the same, accessible platform and fitness heads will have no shortage of experiences to choose from.
Interested in contributing content for VR Fitness Insider?
Jaron Lanier created a virtual reality device in the 1980’s (EyePhone 1/HRX) and costed up to $49,000 for the goggles and gloves.
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