Exercise in Virtual Reality

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After awhile, running on a treadmill or riding an exercise bicycle can feel pretty monotonous. When it comes down to it, you’re quite literally on a path to nowhere, with little besides the music in your headphones or the occasional miniature television monitor to provide any respite.

Breaking down cardio into such bleak terms, it’s a wonder anyone puts up with it at all. Even the appeal of cycling or running outside through the same streets and parks loses its luster if you’ve been in the same place for too long.

Generally, folks don’t possess the sheer physical will and determination of professional level athletes—for many of us, hitting the gym feels more like a chore than a pleasure.

There are numerous classes and workouts designed to fight against the monotony of these gym routines, but there aren’t any that have delved into the burgeoning technology of virtual reality.

Until now, that is. Holodia, a French virtual reality solutions company, recently launched Holofit, an immersive VR experience for sport and fitness. According to Kemal Evrim, the company’s chief marketing officer, the idea spawned when Holodia’s cofounders were thinking about how to adapt VR technology into everyday use.

“That’s the origin of it. They were at the gym, and started talking about how they could make it more entertaining for people doing their cardio and exercises,” Evrim tells BTRtoday.

The solution itself is relatively simple, and requires only a VR headset while using an elliptical, exercise bike, or row machine. Holofit also includes personal coaching and performance tracking to help users tabulate their progress and reach their goals.

However, the most interesting aspect of Holofit are its immersive environments. Users can bike through Ancient Babylon, across the frozen plains of Antarctica, and even deep below the ocean surface. It’s an aspect Holodia is constantly aiming to keep fresh and update with new content.

“We are working on it everyday, because we are creating new environments all the time,” Evrim says. “My favorite environment is Saturn, where you are kind of going through space and avoiding asteroids. It has a very Star Wars or Star Trek feel to it.”

Prior to launching, Holodia toured the Holofit prototype throughout Europe and welcomed people to try it at a number of fitness events. Overall, more than 6,000 people tried it and provided feedback that helped make the experience smoother and more motivational.

Holofit was launched less than two months ago, but the response from future clients, including gyms and hotels, has been very positive. A Facebook video of the technology accrued more than 1 million views in 24 hours, and the company is already shipping throughout France and Europe.

The next big step is moving into the American and Asian markets. Holofit is beginning a new investor round soon, and is prioritizing transcontinental expansion in 2017.

While it might not traverse the world overnight, a VR platform on the fitness market is certainly significant. Aside from the overall entertainment of the system, Evrim and the entire Holofit team believe their product is a landmark, both in terms of fitness and making VR more accessible in daily life.

“I think this is an important step for the gym industry, as connected objects and more entertaining solutions are needed, because people are getting tired of the old way of doing sports,” Evrim says. “We think that this is the first wave of augmented or virtual reality we will see in our everyday lives.”