VirZOOM, a VR/fitness firm, wants to get you off that couch and into a calorie-burning virtual reality. The Massachusetts-based startup is selling a new series of stationary bikes that sync with VR headsets to immerse players in elaborate fantasy scenarios as they cycle. On the one hand, fitness is important. On the other, look at this shit.
Stationary bikes are sort of having a moment as an alternative to expensive smart bikes like Peloton. But VR is just the latest in a long line of gimmicks meant to distract from the tedium of exercise. The start-up will start selling its own proprietary VR-enabled stationary bikes in March, alongside sensors that let you “jack-in” to VR on your own bike.
While exercising on VirZOOM’s bikes, there are two scenarios happening simultaneously. Your virtual self rides (for instance) a mythic winged horse across shimmering, dusky skies in a mountain valley. Meanwhile, your “real” self pedals in place while sweat starts pools in your headset. Some of the games look pretty cool—lassoing wild animals while on horseback or firing payloads from a helicopter, but however elaborate, you’re still on a bike.
According to VirZOOM’s site, the games are compatible with most headsets, including Samsung Gear, Vive, Oculus, and PSVR, but that’s sort of the problem. Companies have struggled to find uses for VR outside of gaming, so “virtual fitness,” or whatever buzzword this ends up attached to, opens up a new customer base. It looks supremely silly, but lucrative: VirZOOM just announced its raised $5.5 million in seed funding.