VR train app ‘VZfit’ overwhelms the senses in all of the fallacious methods

The app, which can only be used with the Oculus Quest headset or in conjunction with an exercise bike, uses Street View photography from Google Maps and allows users to get around California’s Highway 1 and the Alps a la Tour riders en climb France or even “go” back in time by revisiting the streets of their youth. The concept is great and, in the best case scenario, it could offer a first class VR experience. However, the current implementation is inadequate and creates some of the biggest pitfalls in virtual reality.

The shortcomings of “VZfit” are best illustrated by my first “drive” (how the app identifies workouts) when I mapped out a route from my childhood home in rural southwest Connecticut to my parents’ old downtown office. As soon as I confirmed the course, I was teleported to some kind of twisted 3D mirror image of my youth. The VR mapped landscape that rolled past me along my childhood street looked vaguely familiar, but its distorted nature felt like someone was extracting my memories through some sort of neural jack, broadcasting them somewhere over a 14.4 modem, and them reassemble around me. I think this is how the world has to look when you have integrated yourself into the Borg.

Probably the best example of the problem is when I was standing right in front of my old house and couldn’t see my house. Instead, I saw a swaying mass of cubed and polygonal green and pavement covering the place where my house should have been. I was moving in one direction and the sharp-edged lump of boxes moved. I still couldn’t see my home. Moving the other way, I ran into the same problem. It was like “Minecrafts” Steve building obstacles to keep me from looking at my old homestead. You win this round, Steve.

This experience underscores the limits of the app. The developers can only do so much with Google’s 2D imagery. And some rides are better than others. The ones highlighted and recommended by the app look much cleaner and clearer, but the user-created rides (created by me and other app users you can access) have been consistently skewed. The autonomy in choosing your route feels useless if the experience makes you want to take the headset off.

The story continues under the advertisement

In the journeys I created, the world repeatedly tore apart and then sat back together around me, with objects moving dramatically and unnaturally in relative position and size. Houses disappeared, only part of the building appeared closer to the street, shrunk or clogged. In areas where two images were clearly put together, canyons often appeared covered with a 2-D wallpaper that reflected the world behind them. Some trees lay flat on the ground and spread horizontally, while others rose up to almost block the sky.

The rides suggested by the app do much better, although they’re never really fun.

While I haven’t tested the app with the attachment for using an exercise bike (the rating will update when we do), a Washington Post freelancer had a glowing experience with this device and app earlier this year. Perhaps that is where the real beauty of the app lies. But I don’t really enjoy the experience without the bike.

The story continues under the advertisement

Many of the exercises that your avatar uses to move around in the app are also no joy. I mimicked the VR trainer who “wheeled” on the platform in front of me and propelled myself forward by doing a strange cross-country movement, crouching and swinging my arms back and forth. The coach’s incessant reminders of “swinging your arms, bend your knees!” Rubbed off too.

One exercise caused me to cross my arms with outstretched elbows like chicken wings and twist them as I walked in place. Cross punches felt more normal, but it just feels weird moving around like that when you can’t see what your body is doing. Even the standard movement – the combination of the squat and arm swing – is getting old. It’s a great workout, but doing a seven-mile squat seems a little masochistic. Fortunately, you can still move around by swinging your arms back and forth, an alternative I generously used after my knees started to hurt.

It would be better if users could choose their preferred movements, but right now you can’t. According to Virzoom, adding this functionality is one of their priorities as they evolve.

Then it was time to turn around – and I swear the real world moved beneath my feet. The hilly landscape disoriented me from the start, but the app’s twisting mechanics made it worse. To turn, you need to tilt your head left or right. Combined with the disorienting effects of VR and the repetitive movements of my body, I had to balance myself multiple times. After finishing a 15-minute drive, I battled a touch of motion sickness. (Users can use an option to ride on some sort of rail that doesn’t require turning their head. If you decide to use the app I recommend this, but I still felt disoriented when the ride was a 90- Degree rotation required.)

The story continues under the advertisement

Since getting Quest 2, I’ve been a huge fan of Wander, the app that converts Google Map Street View data into VR. I checked out Paris, Giza, Dubrovnik and my Connecticut home mentioned above. In any case, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Mediterranean Sea, or my old house aroused a certain amount of awe. They were clear, they were majestic (yes, even my old house). My only gripe was that I had to click around to get to certain points on the floor.

What I wanted was to be able to move physically somehow. “VZfit” seemed to offer exactly this possibility. At the moment there is only one possibility.

During the winter months of the pandemic, I had used my Quest 2 to keep in shape. I’ve used a boxing app (“The Thrill of Fight”) and an aerobics / boxing workout app (“Fit XR”) and I’ve found that both are better alternatives to getting me into for a walk or a run to draw the cold. Both provided engaging, playful experiences that came in pounds. “VZfit,” which also requires a $ 9.99 monthly subscription, will not be included in my VR training regiment. Hopefully improved map data and some smoothing will be more attractive in a future update as the concept offers a lot of advantages. At the moment my only consistent exercise with “VZfit” is one of the futility.

Comments are closed.