Giving up the controller and getting exercise in virtual reality

In the United States one in three American adults is clinically obese. As screens have come to dominate our lives both in work and play, we no longer have to move about to conduct our daily business. So who would have thought that videogames, specifically virtual reality games, might be our saving grace?
With the mounting hype around virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlaystationVR, it seems likely that virtual reality is about to take the world of video games by storm. There are literally hundreds of VR games slated for release in the next year and even more in development. Those of us who have already tried these headsets cannot get enough of the fully immersive experience that virtual reality provides.
But the truth is, the headset is only a small part of an immersive experience. The first thing many people do when they try on a VR headset for the first time is reach out and try to touch the virtual objects they are seeing. It’s an automatic reaction, something ingrained in us since we were children. When we see something cool or interesting, we want to interact with it.
The major headset manufacturers have all realized how important this kind of interaction is to immersive VR experiences and have worked to make sure users can interact naturally with the virtual world. Oculus is releasing Touch, a motion-tracked controller that even allows for basic finger gestures, around six months after Rift comes out. HTC is taking it a step further by bundling its motion-tracked controllers with the Vive upon release. Sony is relying on existing Playstation Move controllers as the main way people will interact with PlaystationVR.
But interacting with virtual experiences is only the beginning, we also want to move around in them. The first step is called roomscale, essentially allowing people to walk around their living rooms while wearing VR headsets. This allows a person to move around a virtual environment as big as the room they are standing in. Although HTC is the only headset manufacturer to explicitly support it, Oculus has said that a roomscale setup is possible with its hardware. Still, to truly get moving in VR, you’ll need specialized equipment. Omnidirectional treadmills allow a person wearing a VR headset to run for hours in any direction.
So what does all this mean for our obesity problem? Prior to virtual reality, videogames were generally seated experiences. Although the Wii and Kinect encouraged movement-based play, the vast majority of games are still played sitting down with a traditional controller. With virtual reality, this will no longer be the case. 
We already know video games can be addicting, encouraging their users to spend hours in virtual worlds. With virtual reality, they can spend those hours running, jumping, swimming, and fighting. Exercising will no longer be a grind at the gym but an epic quest to save the world. Games could even be designed to encourage a full workout without ever leaving the comfort of your living room. The best part is, most people wouldn’t even think of it as exercise. Hopefully it will be just the medicine we need to get us off the couch and moving about.