Did you get a FitBit or an Apple Watch for Christmas this year? There’s no doubt wearable technology is hot right now, with sales predicted to exceed 450 million by 2019. But companies are already looking to the horizon for the next big thing in fitness technology – and it may not be as far away as you think.
Virtual Reality may sound like an unlikely candidate to step up as the next big thing. Devices from the early 90’s have tried and failed, met with lukewarm responses and even worse sales.
Fast forward to 2016, and with advances in processing speed and manufacturing efficiencies, there has never been a better chance for Virtual Reality to succeed. It could just be the next major innovation to drive immersive digital fitness experiences.
Big companies sure are throwing their financial muscle behind it. Facebook owned Oculus Rift, Sony’s Playstation VR and HTC Vive all have major releases in the pipeline for 2016. And the fierce competition between these big players can only benefit us, the consumers.
While fitness-related Virtual Reality products are still in their infancy, products like VirZoom are already showing us what will be possible in the very near future. VirZoom uses Virtual Reality to ‘gamify’ an indoor cycling workout where you become the pilot of a flying pegusus. Increasing your speed or resistance can result in finding new areas or achieving specific in-game goals.
Valve’s Vive VR is unique in that it uses two devices, placed in the corners of a room, to turn a physical space into a digital 3D space. Your movements with the headset are then tracked. Any good trainer can make the most of a small space to create a very effective and challenging workout. Now add the infinite possibilities of using a Virtual Reality headset to ‘gamify’ your movement and the possibilities are very exciting!
But with any technology launch, there are some challenges for companies looking to leverage Virtual Reality in the fitness space. For example, many users report experiencing vertigo when using a Virtual Reality headset. Not great if you’re looking to add movement and exercise to the Virtual Reality experience.
The high cost for at home consumers is also a challenge, and will most likely be targeted to early adopters. Oculus has been the first to announce pricing at $USD600. That is without the high end PC required to run the device.
Cost alone means that Virtual Reality won’t be a mass market product on the scale of wearables in 2016, but Virtual Reality companies are hoping they can re-create the early magic of another disruptive fitness product from back in the late 2000’s, the Wii Fit. By March 2012 Wii Fit had sold over 22 million copies before disappearing almost overnight. If Virtual Reality succeeds, some large companies are poised to cash in and consumers can expect some truly revolutionary fitness experiences. Fail and these shiny new Virtual Reality headsets could end up with the Wii Fit at the back of the cupboard.
We’ll sure be watching with interest in 2016!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?