Virzoom Retires VZFit {Hardware} To Focus Solely on Software program Growth

Courtesy Virzoom

Virzoom, the creative force behind the great VZFit, today announced a significant advancement of its product as continuous improvements to third-party Bluetooth cadence sensors have halted production of their own VZFit hardware solution.

On her blog and on her Facebook page, Virzoom explained how this natural evolution came about. Thanks to the continuous improvements in the virtual reality industry and the growing popularity of indoor cycling in general (Zwift and Pelaton in particular are both firmly entrenched in the mainstream consciousness) there is now a solid third-party infrastructure that a consumer has can connect their compatible VR headset to any stationary bike. In short, the VZFit hardware was no longer needed.

The development of a company and an industry

In the development of Virzoom as a company, we can follow the relatively rapid development of the VR industry ourselves. As they wrote in their announcement, “When we started thinking about how to work with the bike in VR in 2014, the only solution was to design the bike ourselves. With the announcement of wireless headsets like Quest and Go, we realized that there was going to be a wider audience soon and that wireless headsets make the most sense for fitness applications. We put everything we learned with the VirZOOM bike into a sensor and button that can be attached to any stationary bike. ‘

The sensor and controls made a lot of sense at the time, as Virzoom’s gamification of the stationary bike required shooting guns, blowing the horn, and making menu selections. Some of their game modes also required the ability to flip, and there wasn’t a single third-party solution they could recommend for consumers to purchase to make all of this possible. So they reluctantly built their own.

Why the VZFit hardware solution was never ideal

VZFit’s hardware solution is an excellent product. It does everything it set out to do, but there are some significant downsides that are likely to hinder sales and put off potential customers. The first was cost. As a small VR software company, Virzoom wasn’t ideally suited for developing a hardware product. They got to work with some great hardware companies, but making a bespoke system cost money that had to be passed on to the consumer. At $ 99 for the kit and a significant tariff if you lived outside of the US and Canada, the system was a sizable upfront investment. This has spoiled the tastes of some consumers who felt that the monthly subscription cost to access the full service after the hardware was paid off was an unjustified extra expense. The other downside to the VZFit sensor was that due to its accuracy it would not work with other bike applications and services. An important goal for Virzoom this year was therefore to make the VZFit software compatible with third-party sensors, which was achieved through an update in March 2020.

Commenting on this change, Virzoom writes: “When we started testing third-party hardware, we were surprised to see how far these sensors and trainers had come, and were pleased to discover that they can provide a great experience while playing our games what is most important part for us.

The reception for this change has been incredible. Current customers have tried and love the integration. More than half of our new customers are now using sensors that are not from VZfit. ‘

This rapid and positive acceptance of third-party solutions by their customers, as well as valuable customer feedback in their forums on the reliability and quality of the third-party sensor experience, has encouraged Virzoom to make the decision to leave the production of the hardware to companies that specialize in it and their whole Spend time and resources on what really matters, the VZFit software, the Play and Explorer apps.

The benefits of third-party market acceptance

For the consumer, the greatest benefit is the cost savings. The cheapest third-party solutions are available for a maximum of $ 25. As I’ll cover in an upcoming article, I had a great experience with an IGPSport C61 sensor that I shipped from eBay for only £ 16. The other big advantage is compatibility with other VR services like Holodia’s Holofit, as well as traditional solutions like Zwift. It is likely that some consumers already have a compatible sensor. When a sensor enables connectivity to various services, consumers are more likely to pick you up out of curiosity.

If, like me, you own the VZFit hardware, you can be sure that Virzoom has stated that all future software updates will continue to support their own hardware in addition to third-party sensors.

VZFit is getting better and better, a full integration of smartbikes is planned

With the decommissioning of the VZFit hardware, Virzoom can now fully concentrate on making the software as good as possible. There are some exciting developments going on to this end.

From the Virzoom team: “In the next update we will add support for Power Bluetooth profiles so that older and medium weight trainer devices can work with our apps. After that, a full integration of smart bikes / trainers is on the way, which brings with it the possibility to control the resistance of smart bikes and trainers who support it. Those hills and mountain drives will get a much more real feel. ‘

Final thoughts

It’s been a long way in the eight or nine months I’ve been using VZfit. Regular updates have added features like in-game music, new game levels, and a number of improvements to VZFit Explorer, the Google Streetview bike app that it has become the final VR practice experiences. As I discussed recently, it now has official scientific backing. A recent article published in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows that it is more useful than traditional exercise modalities for having more fun, improving positive associations with exercise, and helping participants exercise longer.

Now the software is easier to access than ever and the cost of entry has dropped significantly. This is great news, of course, for the developers at Virzoom, but also proof of how far VR has come in just a few years. Like many others, I am sometimes frustrated with the relatively slow adoption of VR and the fact that a true second generation PCVR headset has not yet been released.

But in retrospect, if you’d told me in 2015 that by 2020 I would be able to ride my then completely unused and abandoned stationary bike in virtual reality from my own house in the country with a standalone headset that required no computer and could work anywhere. I would have thought this was about as believable as Elon Musk’s claim that a Neural Link implant means we can communicate telepathically for the next decade.

VR is advancing, VR fitness is advancing, and companies like Virzoom are leading the way.

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