Pedaling a stationary bike is kind of a sad metaphor for life: try as you may, you’re never going anywhere. But thanks to virtual reality, there might be an exercise machine coming to your local gym or arcade that promises to gamify what many people not only find to be an existential commentary on their personal failings, but also a painfully boring experience. VirZOOM, makers of VR arcade exercise games and the VirZOOM Bike Controller, recently announced a partnership with AMD that promises to provide the graphical horsepower to drive VirZOOM experiences in gyms and arcades, bringing their collection of VR games to gym-quality upright and recumbent bikes around the world.

VirZOOM (pronounced ver-ZOOM) has created a collection of VR sports games designed to combine strategy, coordination, and fitness. The software itself can be downloaded at home for free, as it supports Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR headsets (with Gear VR coming later), but the company’s proprietary VirZOOM Bike Controller, an integral piece of kit, costs a little under $400—available at VirZOOMAmazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, Target, and Walmart.

image courtesy VirZOOM

While the compact bike is designed for in-home use, VirZOOM is branching out further by retrofitting their VR games suite to gym-quality equipment across the Discover Series Life Fitness SE3 fitness bike line, making VR fitness that much more affordable considering the cost of a gaming PC, VR headset and a special exercise bike.

“Virtual reality brings new excitement to traditional fitness equipment. One of our goals is to continuously enhance the immersive exercise experience on our premium products. Combining the interactive and engaging VR experience with the performance and durability of our Life Fitness products is an example of two innovative technologies coming together. Exercisers forget that they are working out because they are so in tune with what’s going on in the game, it’s been pretty fun to see. We want to continue finding new ways to keep people engaged and moving, and partnering with VirZOOM is a testament to that,” said Amad Amin, Life Fitness product director of digital experience.

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The setup will use small form factor PC’s created by AMD to go along with HTC Vive VR headsets. Besides their partnerships with Life Fitness, HTC, and AMD, ViRZOOM is also partnered with Fitbit, providing integration into the app so you can keep an eye on your distance pedaled, workout duration, heart rate, and calories burned—all automatically patched into the Fitbit app on your phone.

Games include multiplayer games like traditional cycling, horse racing, F1 racing, tank battles, and even flying on the back of a pegasus. Competitive and cooperative matches can be played by up to 8 players, including head-to-head challenges and time attacks. To further gameify fitness, you can choose your own workout and goals while collecting coins along the way to upgrade your avatar.

image courtesy VirZOOM

“Partners like AMD, HTC and Life Fitness have been instrumental in making our vision of VR exercise games in a gym setting a commercial reality. The AMD and Radeon teams have gone above and beyond to create a powerful PC experience for high-end virtual reality suitable for a commercial gym environment,” said CEO Eric Janszen.

VirZOOM was founded in early 2015 by Eric Janszen and Eric Malafeew in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since coming out of stealth, the company has raised over $4M in their first seed round from 3 investors.

For more info in upcoming locations, visit VirZOOM.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Sponge Bob

    bike is cheap crap
    their “games” are crap too
    BUT… i’d like to pedal my bike in the streets of real Rome or Paris, sort of google street view but in vr
    content is the king, not a crappy bike controller any half decent maker can make

    p.s. I made one out of my old recumbent bike – it took me 6 hours in total including steering wheel controller.. now where can I ride on this bike in VR ??? oculus world demo ? thnks but no thanks

    • romet

      Google necessarily must make bike-version Street View VR.

      • Sponge Bob

        not a “bike version”
        just a usable version with hookups to runtime to move or turn yourself around any way you want without using touch or vive controllers

    • johngrimoldy

      I had low expectations for the robustness/build quality of their bike. It doesn’t look even remotely close to the build quality of a health-club bike. The big challenge in converting a much better bike would be knowing how to interface it. Easiest would probably be to buy one of their bikes then reverse-engineer to retrofit onto a better bike.

  • Sponge Bob

    in a many user gym setting a shared virtualized GPU setup can help a lot with reducing costs and maintenance but i’m not sure its even commercially feasible at the moment

    • AnnoyedAnonymous

      Not too sure on the cleanliness aspect either. Shared HMDs used in physically demanding environments will require very special attention.

      • Sponge Bob

        no shared HMDs for me. thanks but no thanks
        But price will drop to 250-300$ pretty soon for tethered hi-res (4K) light weight HMD only setup (tracked with just one external camera like DK2)

        • AnnoyedAnonymous

          Ive been to several exhibitions that have had a VR component and the lack of cleanliness has concerned me. I’ve only seen one outfit that used hairnets but haven’t heard much from them, Vizuality, for a little while now.

  • silvaring

    Maybe they won’t have a widespread product at first but Virzoom could be establishing a lot of very important partnerships here in the early days, Like can you imagine how much money a company could make by cornering the market on exercise VR equipment for gyms and individuals? If noone has cornered the market already that is…

  • Piero Feltrinelli

    what about the sweating?

    lens get foggy very easily, still unresolved imho