Virtual Reality May Train You To A Fitter You

Virtual Reality May Train You To A Fitter You

Apps for Oculus Rift and Google Glass may enhance your workout

Jason Brick
  • 26 february 2015

Admit it: half the reason you skip workouts (when you skip them) is because they’ve gotten boring. You run the same route, bike the same trail, work through the same Zumba routine over and over again. If that’s true of you (and we’re betting it is), you are not alone.

A combination of virtual reality concepts and wearable technology offers a solution to that part of the exercise motivation game.

It all started with the Zombies! Run! app, a game for your app phone that superimposed the sounds of an approaching zombie horde over whatever music you listened to during your run or bike ride. If you fell below your goal pace, the volume of the zombies would increase to make it sound like they were catching you. When you picked up the pace, the sounds of the horde would diminish.

Wearable technology has let developers level up this game significantly. For example:

  • The Race Yourself app for Google Glass gives you a heads-up display of your progress against virtual opponents set to your best and/or goal times. These can be avatars of yourself, sports celebrities like Usain Bolt, the times and images of your friends, or an approaching hazard like a freight train.
  • Glassfit, also for Google Glass, guides the wearer through a workout routine like yoga, calisthenics or circuit training while keeping and displaying records of past workouts for reference and planning.
  • Runtastic for Oculus Rift, which premiered at this year’s CES, is a virtual personal trainer that simultaneously provides a workout DVD-style exercise program and tracks movement to coach you on whether or not you’re doing the exercises correctly.

Virtual Reality Exercise Display.png
Gamification, a buzzword that refers to the human desire to accumulate points and record achievements, lies at the heart of these virtual twists on exercise. Nearly everybody performs better when in competition with something — be it themselves, a set goal or a live opponent. By bringing that competition into solo training, and creating a constant reminder of progress, there’s a potential to make exercise more regular and fun. Given the growing obesity epidemic across the entire developed world, this can be nothing but a good thing.

All of these technologies are still in early stages of development. Glassfit in early iterations of public release. Race Yourself just opened its crowdfunding campaign, and Runtastic is in early demo. How long we have to wait for Star Trek holodeck workouts like Will Riker and Worf enjoyed is anybody’s guess.

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