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Resolved to exercise more this year? VirZoom thinks virtual tournaments might help

With the New Year, many people focus on fitness and weight loss as popular resolutions. Boston-based startup VirZoom has a solution for them, especially if they’re into gaming. At the Venetian Spa Club at CES 2017, VirZoom introduced the concept of vSports to gamers and fitness buffs. The concept marries two of the most popular sectors in technology today – virtual reality and esports.

VirZoom is the maker of the $400 VirZoom exercise bike, which connects to virtual reality headsets like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR, and serves as a physical controller. VirZoom has also designed a suite of free VirZoom Arcade games like Cycle, Pegasus, Chopper, Tank, Race Car and Kayak that encourage players to pedal off those pounds while being fully immersed in virtual reality competition.

Spencer Honeyman, director of business development at Virzoom, told Digital Trends that vSports combines physical competition in virtual reality through a network of real-world locations (called vSports Centers). This competition can range from online leaderboards, to amateur leagues, to tournaments that include home-based players and those at real world locations. All of this competition will be livestreamed in virtual reality through platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

Exercising on the show floor

The company showcased a preview of this concept with eight bikes at CES, and announced partnerships with AMD and HTC to use the Vive for competition across a network of early vSports Centers in the U.S.

Fitbit is also a partner. VirZoom worked with the fitness tracker company to integrate all of its fitness wearables into the VR exercise experience.

Tournaments will eventually expand into the home for gamers who own a VirZoom.

“When you register your VirZoom bike to create a profile, with the click of a button you can combine it with Fitbit and track all categories like time played, calories burned, etc.,” Honeyman said.

The first competition will launch in February at 18 locations, including VR arcades, LAN Centers, and entertainment facilities. Early tournaments will focus on single-player competition, with players racing for a high score on online leaderboards provided by ggLeap. Honeyman said multiplayer competition will be added later this year, connecting thousands of players across the network of retail locations.

Honeyman said the initial competition will offer a trio of three-minute challenges across games like Cycle, Pegasus, and Tank, with the total score determining the winner. The CES demo was a similar offering, which gives users enough time to experience the VirZoom bike, and the VR games.

In the short term, these vSports Centers will also serve as a way for gamers to get quality hands-on time with the Vive, a PC-based system that costs $800 plus a high-end PC to plug the headset into, as well as the $400 VirZoom controller.

“Instead of consumers going to a retailer where they have space issues, they can try out the VirZoom at a vSports Center and also compete for prizes while they’re there,” Honeyman said.

Gamers can also purchase a VirZoom or an HTC Vive at any of these locations, which include five VR Junkies Arcades, eBash Gaming Center, Epix LAN Center, Game Haven, Virtual World Arcade, Sphere Arcade, LAN Mob Gaming Center, UCI and Wyanotte Athletic Center.

Sign up for your gym’s friendly tournament

Honeyman said tournaments will eventually expand into the home for gamers who own a VirZoom.

VirZoom is also taking VR competition to health clubs through a separate partnership with Life Fitness, which supplies high-end exercise bikes to fitness centers around the country. VirZoom and Life Fitness have co-developed an after market module that connects to any Life Fitness stationary bike that features a Discover SE3 console, allowing users to put on a VR headset and compete against others through VirZoom Arcade games.

Since these Lift Fitness stationary bikes don’t have the controllers that VirZoom built into its bike, users will be able to use resistance buttons to control gameplay when the module is plugged into the console and enabled.

“We think the engaging experience provided in the VirZoom courses will make the workouts enticing to exercisers.”

In Q1 2017, VirZoom and Life Fitness will launch pilot virtual reality competitions at select commercial fitness facilities. Honeyman said the plan is to grow these tournaments throughout the year, and expand into additional fitness centers.

Honeyman said fitness clubs will have the option of offering members offline VR gameplay or online competition. In the future, he’d like to organize tournaments and competitions exclusively for fitness centers.

“We’ve seen countless times how people’s competitive nature encourages them to work out harder and longer on equipment,” Amin added. “We think the engaging experience provided in the VirZoom courses will make the workouts enticing to exercisers, and provide them a means to get a great workout.”

That’s the ultimate goal when it comes to VirZoom. The company is offering users multiple ways to compete without having to invest in any hardware through the health clubs, LAN Centers, VR arcades and entertainment centers. At the same time, unlike other popular eSports games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, competitors will be erasing calories as well as on-screen enemies.