In the gaming world, virtual reality is very much the present. With the success of the Oculus and Morpheus headsets, immersing oneself into actual gameplay has been the next, great evolution in gaming. Simply using controllers to manipulate characters is becoming so 2000 and late. Virtual reality is all about making you the character, becoming an avatar in a virtual world where you can do anything your wildest dreams can imagine. But what if you could become a majestic Pegasus flying through a lush world while getting in some cardio to boot? That’s the idea behind the VirZOOM controller and software.
Anyone who says they enjoy a rigorous cardio workout is a filthy little liar. Most often, to get through an intense treadmill or biking session, people distract themselves by listening to music, watching movies or playing games on their devices to power through the sweat and pain. Deciding enough was finally enough, VirZOOM has developed a controller that is essentially an exercise bike. Equipped with the company’s software and existing virtual reality headsets, VirZOOM has developed games that directly transport you into some seriously fun gameplay scenarios that are fueled by pedaling their bike controller. That’s right – you power VirZOOM’s virtual reality experiences yourself, pedaling yourself into better shape while having a rip-roaring good time. Nothing takes away the burn of a leg workout like virtually drag racing with a friend or charging a tank into a war zone.
The important thing to note with VirZOOM’s technology is that the games are tailor-made for virtual reality. Spencer Honeyman, director of business development for VirZOOM, explained that part of the problem with other, earlier virtual reality gaming was everyone wanted to take existing games not built for virtual reality and try to integrate that technology into them. The result was a mixed – and often nauseous – bag. All of VirZOOM’s content is specifically created with virtual reality in mind, creating a pretty smooth and seamless transition from boring, real life into a virtual wonderland once you hop on their bike and slip on a virtual reality headset.
I got the chance to test out VirZOOM using both the Oculus headset and PlayStation’s new VR headset. Anyone familiar with Oculus knows their headset can be a bit claustrophobic and suffocating, but PlayStation’s felt more like a high tech pair of goggles and a visor, freeing up the face more while retaining the immersive quality you want and expect from virtual reality. As a VR first-timer, I have nothing to really compare VirZOOM’s software and performance with, but I can unequivocally say that it was way more fun and engrossing than I expected. And for those worried about any queasiness or vertigo while playing, I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp the imagery was for VirZOOM’s games. Honestly, I got more nauseous in my Uber on the way to test out VirZOOM than I did taking flight as a Pegasus.
What separates VirZOOM from other virtual reality platforms is that it’s not only compatible with all existing VR headsets, but that they solely produce all of their games and content and give users the added bonus of doing something productive and healthy while playing some super awesome games. Integrated wireless sensors track all of your movements while speed sensors measure your pedaling speed. Naturally, the faster you pedal on the bike, the faster you go in whatever virtual world you’ve chosen. Moving your shoulders allows you to steer and maneuver, while buttons on the handlebars offer advanced controls and functionality catered to each game.
Using VirZOOM to lasso up some bandits while galloping horseback or drag racing against a ghost car of my previous lap in a drag race, I was completely sucked into the gameplay, almost forgetting the fact that I was pedaling like a mad man trying to catch that last damn bandit before time ran out. VirZOOM accomplished the impossible task of tricking me into cardio, and I have to applaud them for that downright sneaky feat. The games were all I cared about; though make no mistake, the burn from cycling furiously was there afterwards.
VirZOOM is clearly tuned in to attracting gamers who already use their PS4 or PC as consoles, but their bicycle controller is enticing for more casual gamers or health nuts who are looking to spice up their fitness routine. Gamers who have been hesitant to adopt virtual reality headsets might find something novel in VirZOOM’s unique and active approach; it’s certainly the most accessible VR option out there for a pretty wide audience. The bicycle controller takes up very little room and can even be folded up effortlessly for storage in your broom closet when you’re done using it.
The VirZOOM Beta controller and software is now available for $199 with shipment expected in the first quarter of 2016. The consumer editions of the product along with commercial VR headsets will become available sometime in 2016. For those who want to constantly get new and updated content, you can sign up for VirZOOM Plus for just $9.99 that will integrate new games, online multiplayer functionality and fitness tracking into the VirZOOM experience. You know, if flying as a boss ass Pegasus isn’t enough for you.