VirZoom may look like a fairly standard exercise bike from the nineties, but neither Suzanne Sommers nor Chuck Norris will be riding this in an infomercial. Rather than just a nineties throw back, it’s taking advantage of an established design so that your brain doesn’t totally explode at the awesome freedom of virtual reality. VirZoom, the exercise bike-controller for gamers just opened for preorders.
DT got a chance to try VirZoom out when CEO and Co-founder Eric Jansen and Director of Business development Spencer Honeyman stopped by New York. Sit on it and pedal like you would a regular exercise bike; buttons on the bars function as they would on a handheld controller. Through the VirZoom Active Play app on PC or PlayStation 4, players can lasso bandits in Stampede!, get into Go Fast Car and race as a dog with excellent driving skills (why not?), and fly like an eagle – or more literally as a Pegasus in Pegaso. “It’s kind of modeled on dream flight,” Eric said. “If you were in a dream, this is how you’d fly.” Instead of turning the bars right or left, you use your body to steer. “You move your shoulders left and right, kind of how you’d steer on a motorcycle,” Spencer explained.
Even though it’s directed more at gamers than at hardcore athletes, with adjustable resistance VirZoom is still viable as a trainer. Players can track their workouts and know how far they went and how fast, along with how many calories they burned. Tracker integration is planned so users can add their time on VirZoom to their full fitness regimen. You can get a decent workout riding VirZoom, and it gives the same instant gratification of riding a bike – the faster you pedal the faster (or higher) you go. Sitting on the bike also helps negate the feeling of motion sickness that can sometimes happen with VR.
As far as the hardware itself, it’s silent during use, which is a huge plus for the downstairs neighbors and anyone else that doesn’t like the sound of gears shifting and brakes rubbing. When not in use, it folds up for easy storage. Since it’s both an exercise bike and a game controller, it’s a good fit for a family with a variety of needs. “Kids love this,” Spencer said, “and their parents are like ‘holy crap, I got my kids off the couch.'” Both Eric and Spencer know they’ve got something great on their hands. As Spencer put it succinctly: “it’s fitness for gamers.”
Appealing to users who aren’t necessarily exercise fanatics, play fortunately isn’t limited to Tour de France sims, racing spandex-clad avatars in something that tries to replicate a real-world experience, as one might expect from a VR exercise bike. That may come later when the team opens up access to developers next year, but they wanted to create something with wider appeal. To that end, players get to do things everyone always imagined would be fun, like stopping escaping lawbreakers in the Wild West or soaring over treetops on the back of a winged horse. There’s something about your physical effort lifting you off of the virtual ground and into the sky that just makes you think “That’s cool.” Time keeps on slipping into the future; better get with it.
You’ll need the hardware, including an Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, or HTC Vive to use VirZoom (and obviously a PS4 or PC). The company plans to support other headsets as position tracking becomes available. In this writer’s opinion, VirZoom plus Oculus Rift and a PS4 equals a little bit of magic.
The one catch is you need VirZoom Plus for online play and access to the fitness tracking over time. While the first month of VirZoom Plus is free, it’s a subscription service that starts at $10 a month with discounts available based on how long you’d like to subscribe. The first 300 VirZoom preorders go for $200, that includes five games and the controller bike. After the first 300, the price goes up to $250. The bikes will go out by the end of the first half of 2016.