VR & ARHow virtual and augmented reality are revolutionzing fitness


It is estimated that revenue from both AR and VR will reach $13.1 billion by 2020 and will further exceed $35 billion by 2025, owing to its adoption in gaming, education, fashion, healthcare, and entertainment industries.

It’s not so easy to make the connection between fitness and virtual reality since technology has long been considered the enemy of physical activity. But recent research and market data show that there’s a reversal of that trend going on. Today, it’s easier to see how technology, fitness and wellbeing can work together, and the way they’re able to do that is through immersive technology. The department of kinesiology at San Francisco State University has launched its VR Health Institute, which is studying a way to use virtual games and looking at the amount of calories players burn during a session. Aaron Stanton, consultant for a Silicon Valley startup, predicts that companies active in the fitness sector will soon be sprinting to capture the virtual reality market as applied to fitness, and that in the United States, it will soon be impossible to find a gym without virtual or augmented reality devices.   

How can virtual reality incentivize fitness?

What’s happening in the fitness industry is unique—immersive technology is contributing to an increase in motivation and wellness. That is to say, virtual and augmented reality are improving the desire to get active, as well as improving the resulting benefits for the body and mind. Daniel Mestre, Senior Researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research states, “Coupling exercise to virtual reality results in a more enjoyable experience by contextualizing the exercise. It notably distracts the participant from exercise-induced pain.”

Meditating or doing a workout in an appealing location, like a Nordic forest or a Caribbean beach is certainly motivating. Immersive technology has the huge advantage of being able to make workouts more fun and less tiring. It improves the quality of solo lessons done at home with a virtual instructor, as well as in-person group lessons. Many brands like Samsung, Sony and Google are experimenting with that, integrating virtual and augmented reality in devices to improve the quality of the “fitness experience.” Just look at the market data to see why this is the right moment to act.

Global smart wearable fitness and sports devices market will grow at a CAGR of 25.22% and 38.35% respectively during the period 2016-2020.

What is immersive fitness and how does it work?

Even the world of video games, which has always been criticized for the possible negative effects on young people in particular, is proving to be a fertile area to promote healthy behavior. An American startup created Black Box VR, a very unique technology that allows users to be physically active while wearing a VR headset (the HTC Vive) and playing an online shooter game. Black Box VR showed the first prototype of its technology at CES 2018 (an event dedicated to technology that’s held every year in Las Vegas), and it will soon open the  first gym in San Francisco that will use Black Box VR. Another emblematic example is Virzoom, a headset paired with a smart bike, which modifies the game based on pedaling speed.

The link between fitness and augmented reality

And what about augmented reality? What are some of the possible advantages for a workout? The most obvious one is that since it’s not completely immersive, it allows people to still relate to their surrounding environment. By using real-time data on things like pace, performance and results, our training could absolutely improve.

In a similar vein, Hoffenheim recently presented at the SAP Hybris tour, technology as a stimulus for mind training, with the goal to enhance reaction speed for professionals in the field. The training was centered on developing subconscious stimuli related to quick decisions and instincts. It’s a mechanism that uses gamification to make it fun and entertaining during an actual mental training session. With the ARKit, Apple focused on integrating augmented reality into devices. One of the most interesting apps is Fitness AR, which is linked to Strava and shows your training sessions on a 3D map, almost like a hologram. You can zoom in on the street, or get information on your pace or calories burned. So the future that we can see is one where technology and fitness are increasingly interconnected. There will be truly unique opportunities to create new relationships and dynamics with users, and these will be up for the taking for innovative brands—the ones that aren’t afraid to experiment, and that know how to listen to a market that’s more and more dynamic every day.

Michela Di Nuzzo

« Se scrivo ciò che sento è perché così facendo abbasso la febbre di sentire». - Fernando Pessoa Giornalista e co-founder, vivo il digital come imprenditrice e appassionata. Percepisco il cambiamento come un'opportunitá mai una minaccia. Occhi spalancati e orecchie aperte, sempre pronta alla condivisione, la chiave di ogni evoluzione.

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