Let’s be real, the thought of a Virtual Reality Bike doesn’t sound all that appealing at first glance…until you actually get on the thing and check it out. Think DDR Dance Pads but for the VR world. It’s actually really awesome.
I tried the VirZoom bike at PAX East this weekend and tried essentially a tech-demo that incorporated five games: one where you’re a cowboy going after some other bandits, one where you’re a unicorn flying through the sky collecting gems, a helicopter game and tank game in which you aimed the vehicle weapons using your head in the VR environment, and a racing game.
The most fun of the games I tried was definitely the tank battle game, as I think for me it provided the most fun and was the simplest in terms of learning the controls of the VirZoom bike. You control speed and/or lift via pedaling, but moving/turning left to right is actually done by leaning on the seat of the bike. For me, I had to really kind of re-train myself to make that connection, so the racing game ended up being the most difficult because turning didn’t come as naturally to me as the other controls.
After chatting with Spencer at the booth, I realized how VirZoom really is a compliment to VR rather than a gimmick. It’s not an exercise bike because it’s not about exercising. VR motion sickness is a thing, something I experienced within 10 minutes of the first time I ever tried VR just last year at PAX Prime. The VirZoom helps reduce motion sickness through VR because you are actually moving while experiencing VR, which helps keep the brain from being confused (it’s an inner-ear thing that I don’t quite totally understand because SCIENCE) and thus eliminating motion sickness. I personally felt totally comfortable and not dizzy or lightheaded after pedaling my way through the demo which actually broke a sweat.
And that’s kind of the point of VirZoom. It’s a way to exercise WITH VR games, but it’s not specifically designed for exercise. The VirZoom has a tension adjustment for the pedal to make it easier or harder to pedal (which controls your in-game movement) so if you don’t want to work out, you really don’t have to. However, as we’ve seen with things like Dance Dance Revolution, some people can use this as a tool alongside their gaming to help with fitness and weight loss. While some may view it as “gimmicky” like the DDR dance pads, or even the NES Power Pad back in the day with World Class Track Meet, VirZoom to me was so much more than that. It takes away conventional game controls and replaces them with something fun and different. Sure, you might not play CS:Go on a VirZoom, but the idea that you could maybe incorporate a potential work-out game session together might appeal to some.
Final Thoughts: VirZoom is actually surprisingly cool, and every purchase of the VirZoom bike includes their SDK to make your own games! The cost is around $400, and it doesn’t include a VR headset so keep that in mind when you’re planning out costs. It’s compatible with pretty much all VR gear including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR. Keep an open mind on this one if you’re at all curious about what it has to offer. It’s certainly not “exercise bike simulator 2016” and that is a fact.
-Written by Andrew(@SoAfterISaid)