Future Fitness: Cycling through virtual universes

Gyms are boring, dull, tedious places. Bleak walls and rows upon rows of sweating punters don’t make for a very inspiring environment. Even with a pair of headphones and a TV screen it’s easy to become distracted and let your mind wander off into a fantasy world. But what if we could start our exercise session in a world that isn’t our own?
You could be cycling through a 3D rendering of an ancient lost city, the world of Game of Thrones, or a realistic urban sprawl. Widerun, a virtual reality startup, has created a cycling kit that takes you away from the monotonous cycling at the gym and instead lets you cycle through the virtual world of your choice.
“We are the first bringing 3D virtual reality to fitness. There are a lot of competitors doing it but with external screens,” Jasmin Mair, from Widerun, told Factor. “There are a lot of people working within this branch, but I think we are the first attempt to really put together the fitness experience itself with 3D virtual reality.”
On Your Bike
The set-up is simple: the trainer device holds the rear wheel of the bike and also connects to a VR headset. The ‘smart bike trainer’ isn’t just limited to the Oculus Rift, the Ferrari of the VR world, but also works with the Samsung Gear and more.
From there you can start cycling through different worlds, which come with music, sound effects and more. At present, the Italy-based team have developed a series of worlds that can be cycled through, although they have also made an open marketplace where developers can sell their own 3D games and are developing an SDK.
There is also the option to compete against friends in other locations. Although products like the Wii Fit balance board and apps such as ‘Zombies, Run!’ have helped to popularise the gamification of exercise, this was not the motivation behind creating Widerun.
“Indoor fitness is not motivating at all. They [competitors] are trying to do it with gamification and so on, but in our opinion that’s not enough,” said Mair. “With the virtual reality you can give people the feeling that they are not in their boring basement. They are actually somewhere having fun.”