CES 2018: Black Box VR Brings Your Gym Into the World of VR

By Tom Pritchard on at

There are a lot of reasons why you might not want to go to the gym. Exercise for one, is definitely not fun, and anyone who claims otherwise is some sort of masochist. Or, at least, that's my opinion. If you're worried about having to physically go somewhere, then work out in front of a group of people, then Black Box VR has the solution: it's a virtual reality gym that you can use at home.

The idea is that people strap into an HTC Vive headset, using a resistance machine and a number of wearable 'controllers' that track your movement. The experience itself is designed to try and make you keep coming back, gamifying the workout and tracking your progress as you do your thing.

Speaking to the BBC Black Box general manager Jim Bradbury said:

"Most people stop going [to the gym] after a couple of weeks so adherence is something that's a critical factor of what we're trying to solve."

At first it has you competing against an avatar, but later on will add a multiplayer aspect that involves competing against real people. Similarly, the system uses AI to help you progress, working around your own ability rather than sticking to a rigid set of goals developed by someone else.

Currently Black Box VR doesn't exist in a form that people can just set up at home, which is a massive shame, but it is a pretty novel idea. The major downside, however, is that it's not exactly going to be cheap and doesn't really take into account the main benefit of having a gym membership: the fact that gym equipment is expensive and requires a lot of space.

The HTC Vive itself costs £600, and that doesn't take into account the PC you'll need to use it. Then you have to add on the cost of the machine you'll be working on, and Black Box's controllers. So it gets to the point where it's more cost effective to just pay £x every month and use the stuff there.

I only have concerns about the state of the headset. Vives aren't cheap, and sweat isn't particularly good for technology. I certainly wouldn't want to use a headset after someone else has just done a hefty workout either.

That's not to say it doesn't sound like a great idea, particularly if it can get in a decent workout. It might not replace the gym just yet, but maybe some day. [BBC News]


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