Black Field VR Brings Digital Actuality Health To The San Francisco Mass Market
Black Box VR
It’s getting close to the end of January and no doubt many readers have already failed their ‘visit the gym more’ resolutions. The problem with regular exercise training is that it can get monotonous and repetitive, and lead to lack of results and inclination to go. Virtual reality exercise has always been a holy grail of workouts, offering an immersive world to keep you continuously engaged and burn off those calories. But the VR exercise experiences available have generally been available to a select few — people who can afford the systems and the peripherals in their own home. For example, my VirZoom bike fitness experience that I tried last year.
What makes Black Box VR different is that it takes the fitness element and places it in a real gym setting. You’re not just DDR-ing it (Audioshield style) to work up a sweat, but you’re actually targeting specific muscles with weight and resistance exercises.
The first Black Box VR gym is set to open in San Francisco this year; think of it as a mix of SoulCycle and HTC Vive headsets. The demo was shown at CES 2018 featured participants standing inside an 8 x 8 feet black box (hence the name) and putting on a headset and motion tracking armbands. Let the games begin. Examples shown included facing off against enemies that ranged from x to magical creatures. To throw weapons (which include meteors!), you do standing chest presses — of which the tension can be increased to really feel the burn. That’s a lot of reps — but the concept is that it won’t feel like it. With the HTC Vive Tracker allowing for more motion sensitivity, it’s pretty likely leg straps and butt and legwork will be added to future iterations.
The history of Black Box VR gives it that extra dash if authority as well. Co-founded by Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, the former founder and creative director of Bodybuilding.com, this is their venture into the world of immersive workouts. “One key differentiator is our patent-pending dynamic resistance machine that is specifically designed to deliver real resistance in a virtual environment. Nobody in the market is delivering real resistance that corresponds to an immersive virtual sport like we are,” said Lewis in a press release. “The dynamic resistance machine is mapped in the virtual environment so when you reach out to grab a virtual handle, you are actually grabbing the handle in the real world. You can feel it.”
To be sure, this isn’t the first gym to incorporate virtual reality into their environment — since launch, the VirZOOM bike is now rolling out to YMCA and LIfe Fitness locations across America and Singapore, and machines such as the Holodia bike and the Icaros flying machine are slowly infiltrating select gyms.
According to the San Francisco-based Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise, games like Audioshield (referenced above) burn an average of 6.8 calories per minute during typical low-intensity gameplay. That’s at least 152,781,628 calories in this one game alone. The institute’s objectives are to “help provide concrete, objective data for the discussion of video games as a source of healthy physical activity,” — and while Black Box VR has no rating, as of yet, when they make a decision, that will surely affect how people perceive the company.
I’m not the only person excited by this, as the startup won ‘Best Startup Award’ at CES 2018 this year as well. “It is a full-body workout that includes science-backed routines that combine resistance training and high-intensity cardio. The game can be a you vs. you experience or a competitive experience against another player, or both,” said Lewis. Fingers crossed the gameplay — and workout — will be as good as it sounds when location one opens in San Francisco this year.
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