AI and better tracking should improve physical training in virtual reality
Virtual reality fitness is booming relative to the growth of the virtual reality market as a whole. FitXR CEO Sam Cole thinks AI and better tracking will soon make VR fitness training more effective.
For FitXR CEO Sam Cole, virtual training is just getting started and will soon become even more efficient with the integration of wearables, artificial intelligence and new VR headsets.
Sports halls have exploded enormously in the last twenty years. Then came the pandemic that caused millions to cancel their fitness memberships. Lockdowns and work-from-home jobs have changed daily routines, and VR fitness apps have exploded.
VR fitness benefits from changing habits
“Historically, you would have your home, your office and your gym. The degree of separation you got between these different physical environments was often very important to people,” says Cole. “I think with the pandemic, people started merging home and work, and then people started merging home, work, and the gym as well.”
Sam Cole is CEO and Founder of FitXR. In 2016, he and his team launched BoxVR, the first VR game designed from the ground up as a fitness app. In a virtual environment, users could perform workouts created by real fitness instructors in virtual reality.
With the pandemic, the fitness app industry started to explode. Facebook, now a Meta company, announced at the time that fitness apps were particularly popular during the pandemic. For BoxVR developers, the growing popularity has led to $6.3 million in new investment.
VR gaming becomes a virtual gym
In 2020, BoxVR received a major upgrade and moved from VR gaming to VR gym. The development team completely revamped the app, introducing live fitness workouts with other users, personal trainer avatars, and additional workout types like dance and HIIT.
The innovations were initially not well received and FitXR was punished by users with negative reviews. However, the reason was not the technical implementation. BoxVR and its DLCs can be purchased for a one-time fee. Along with the upgrade to FitXR also came the switch to a subscription model and a monthly cost of $9.99. The VR game BoxVR, on the other hand, disappeared from Meta Quest 2.
The initial rejection subsided over time and FitXR became more and more successful. With regular updates, new content and events, and ever-improving accessibility, a dedicated and enthusiastic community has formed around FitXR.
Virtual reality classes could be taught by live instructors in the future
The team of personal trainers is also constantly growing. Zion Clark, a professional wrestler born without legs, offers workouts for people with physical disabilities. FitXR was able to enroll professional boxer and Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams.
VR classes may be hosted live by instructors in the future. In the near future, instructors may even be present in person at the VR studio. According to Cole, tests are already underway to have the workout classes delivered live. “We have the technology to support that, we just need to come up with a comprehensive go-to-market strategy to know when it makes sense to launch something like this.”
FitXR: training feedback with artificial intelligence
Still, Cole sees more potential in recorded courses. These would become more effective with the improved motion capture of upcoming VR headsets and the use of artificial intelligence. In the future, FitXR should be able to provide fitness insights based on player movements.
“It’s starting to blur the lines between it’s an avatar talking to me and it’s all pre-recorded, but it gives me specific prompts depending on how I’m playing. It’s more like live feedback,” says Cole .
AI systems are “getting better every day”, according to Cole. Additionally, new headsets with additional tracking cameras should bring better arm and lower torso tracking. “Soon you’ll have nearly complete body position data from helmets,” says Cole.
The FitXR experience will be enhanced by AR, mobile app and wearable devices
FitXR has just released a companion app for iOS and Android that lets users track their progress, create workout plans, or set fitness goals on their smartphones. For the CEO of FitXR, this is an important step into the future.
“We see ourselves as focused on everything from virtual reality to augmented reality, [and] mobile opens up exciting augmented reality opportunities,” says Cole.
FitXR has gained many new customers through word of mouth, he says. The CEO believes this is due to the experiential nature of the VR app. With the smartphone, he says the experience can be extended. FitXR is also working with Apple and Strava on wearable device integration.
“I love this vision where you go through a tough race today and then tomorrow you start FitXR. We welcome you to the experience, congratulate you for going for a run, and adapt the whole class recommendation accordingly. of how you went running,” Cole said.
FitXR CEO expects VR headset sales to increase tenfold
Cole announced in a recent interview that the number of fitness app subscribers has quadrupled in the past twelve months. This success is all the more remarkable as Corona containment and hygiene measures have significantly decreased over the past year and the gyms are fully accessible again.
For Cole, this growth is just the beginning. He thinks VR headset sales will increase tenfold over the next three years. The releases of PlayStation VR 2, Apple’s first VR headset, Meta Quest Pro (Cambria) and Pico Neo 4 (Pro) from TikTok owner Bytedance could help the market grow again.
If you want to know more about the effectiveness of VR Fitness, you should take a look at my multi-part self-test: Earlier this year, I started a VR Fitness self-test and signed up for a subscription annual with FitXR. This well in advance: VR Fitness is a viable choice for regular home workouts.