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For $40, you can add virtual reality to boring stationary biking

Riding a stationary bike may be good exercise, but unless there’s a TV nearby, it’s pretty dull. To spice up his own indoor rides, Paul Yan decided to add some virtual reality cool to his boring workouts. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but instead of it costing hundreds, or even thousands of dollars; Paul spent just $40.

In a YouTube video, he shows how the whole setup works. It began with an Arduino circuit board with a Bluetooth link to a smartphone — in this case, an iPhone 6S Plus. An optical tachometer was fitted to the board, which cleverly monitors the amount of time it takes for a wheel to complete a single revolution. In other words, it measures movement and speed, plus it’s suitable for any bike, regardless of the wheel type or size. Actually, it’ll work with any exercise equipment that has a rotating part. Powered by a 9v battery, the speed-measuring Arduino is placed next to the rear wheel, where it recognizes a strip on the tire as its starting point.

Related: Virzoom gamifies your cycling workout using VR

Now comes the cool bit. Using a custom made iOS app, and a pre-built 3D world powered by the Unity 3D game engine, the iPhone is slipped into a VR headset ready for the ‘cyclist’ to wear. Instead of a wall, the TV, or the sweaty back of another gym-goer to stare at, it transports you into a colorful, game-like 3D city. Peddle away, and you’re off on a tour. The headset used cost $10, and is compatible with Google Cardboard, which can be had for free provided you come up with a way to secure it on your face.

At the moment, the cyclist doesn’t have control over where the bike goes in the virtual world — it has its own preset path. However, Yan says this could easily be changed with a little more work, making it possible to freely roam around this, or any other, environment installed in the app. It’s a fun way of turning a dull pastime into something a lot more exciting, without spending out on an overly complicated — or shockingly expensive — VR sports equipment. The whole build is detailed on his blog.