How Mixed Reality Can Change Fitness
The advent of mixed reality has been one of the most exciting technological developments in many years. It has the potential to change all kinds of different businesses and practices – fitness among them. But for now it’s being looked at primarily as a development aimed at the world of video games.
As you may know, “mixed reality” can refer to either VR (virtual reality) or AR (virtual reality), both of which are already bringing about all kinds of fun new games. In VR, there have been racing games, shooters, and interactive puzzles, with open worlds soon to follow. There have also been brand new experiences aimed specifically at the medium, such as The Climb. This is a first-person rock climbing game that offers charmingly realistic scenery and some interesting movement mechanics meant to expand the potential of motion-heavy VR gaming. It’s exactly the sort of thing that may well succeed in VR, but which probably wouldn’t have been very popular as a regular console game.
AR is a little bit newer, and while a variety of games already exists, people are focused more on potential. For instance, some see the medium as having the potential to revive board and tabletop games. Casino card and slot games, which already come in 3D forms that can be enjoyed by players anywhere as long as they have Wi-Fi, may soon follow. It’s not hard to imagine a 3D projection of a slot machine, card table, Monopoly board, etc. through AR. Perhaps the most interesting early game to come out on AR, however, is AR Runner – not, in fact, solely a game, but an app meant to inspire people to compete in their workouts.
These experiences cover a lot of the headlines that we’ve seen in mixed reality. But if you notice, a few of them at least dip into the realm of physical activity. Purely with regard to gaming, VR and AR are not about exercise, or even movement. They’re meant to facilitate a form of gaming much like console play, but with a headset or another device. Experiences like The Climb and AR Runner, however, shed some light on how these exciting new technologies could actually change fitness – or at least home workouts.
With AR, we could see all kinds of new versions of or takes on AR Runner. As it currently exists, the app is about running through checkpoints and recording a time, so that others can try to beat it and competition can ensue. But many other types of workouts could be organized similarly. We could see digital hurdles, for instance, or agility exercises; we could see digital beacons for people to throw footballs through or pitch baseballs into. And those are just scratching the surface. AR Runner may well be opening the door to a whole new brand of fitness-oriented apps.
As for VR, The Climb actually hints at the potential for new fitness apps, probably unwittingly. That app is purely a game, but what if we were to imagine a similar program that worked alongside the Versaclimber (or one of its cheaper alternative climbing machines)? We’ve already seen similar experiences aimed at cyclists, with one man organizing his own way to cycle the length of Britain in VR while doing his daily workout. It’s even conceivable that a similar program could be rigged up for an elliptical or a treadmill, provided stability is ensured.
Right now these kinds of apps are mostly experimental. But as we continue to hear about mixed reality and its impact on gaming and other industries, don’t discount fitness. In as little as a year, we could begin to see pairings of VR and AR devices with brand new workout programs.
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