VZ Sensor Evaluate: Can Digital Actuality Make Stationary Bikes Any Much less Horrible?

As we once again prepare for the relentless rush of TV commercials selling virtual reality gaming headsets every year, it’s high time you wonder again if these things are for anything but a slightly amusing, very much expensive party trick are good. Good news: this holiday season, instead of a headset, you can dodge invisible enemies who want your destruction as you move around your real living room and repeatedly encounter real hardwood furniture. With these goggles you can dent the indescribable amount of Christmas cookies that you picked up at the company holiday party. You have to play video games now, you see? For fitness.

An outfit called VirZOOM – a Caps Lock-friendly portmanteau with origins that will soon become apparent – makes a family of devices designed to integrate virtual reality games into the use of an exercise bike. The premise is simple: if you start pedaling, so will your character in any of the games you choose to play. VirZOOM’s proprietary bike, which builds game controls right into the handlebars, has been in the market for over a year. At $ 399, it’s a hell of a big investment in a hyper-specialized device that also requires buying a VR headset and smartphone (or computer) and that requires having an exercise bike in your house.

This fall, however, the company is launching the $ 99 VZ sensor, a matchbox-sized plastic square that can be attached to any exercise bike – whatever works in your gym will work just fine – and turns it into a whimsical hybrid from slot machines and gaming systems. After you have started the associated app and switched on the headset as usual, the sensor automatically detects your VR system with a little gentle pedaling. From there, you enter the VirZoom arcade, where you select a game (or a rotation between multiple games) that you want to play during your practice.


As you can imagine, many of the options available are races of some sort – you can choose from a variety of vehicle types and a Tour de France-style racing bike competition – but there are also some that try a little more to suit your needs to separate Do in-game huffing and puffing from your real life. You can wage tank wars or dodging missiles while piloting a helicopter down a river, or even collecting gems as you fly a Pegasus through a magical, colorful kingdom. (Yes, this thing would be wild to use under the influence of mind-altering substances.) However, my personal favorite was chasing criminals fleeing the Old West on horseback as a sheriff and skillfully separating them from their stolen horses before they could escape the reach of my trustworthy lasso.

While I assumed this review was some amusing but ultimately silly novelty, it is … quite funny admittedly! I ended up tracking down bandits 20 minutes longer than I intended, which is exactly the point. All cardio exercise machines are terrible human hamster wheels at their core, and this little invention is one of the few things I’ve tried that actually made the experience a little less miserable. The only real downside was that the inside of the leather-edged headset got a little steamy at some point. So be prepared for the occasional bead of sweat to interrupt your attempts to take a back seat to virtual lawlessness.

“I ended up tracking down bandits 20 minutes longer than I intended, which is exactly the point.”

I don’t know that the VZ sensor is the kind of thing that should get you to copy a new phone and VR headset right away if you don’t already own those things. (While it’s great that you can take the setup to the gym, I don’t know if you want to be the guy on the bike who wears Cyclops glasses, wags your head, and grunts in frustration every time an enemy helicopter gives way to yours Fire sent out.) However, if you already have these things and either have a bike at home or otherwise don’t mind being stared at, the VZ sensor is fun enough to make you exercise a bit more often and cheaper enough that you won’t be heartbroken if you decide VR exercise isn’t for you. Please note, however, that it can only be used for stationary bicycles. The real trees out there can be very unforgiving.

Look now:

Allyson Felix tries her hand on ‘QWOP’

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