Virtual and augmented reality hits the gym

Although virtual reality is being introduced to consumers in new ways, only 24% of youth in the U.S. and a fifth in the UK have tried and liked it. With the emphasis that Millennials place on their health and fitness, combining VR and AR with exercise is becoming a new way for companies to spark consumers’ interest in the category while also standing out in the highly saturated wellness world.


Flying and deep-ocean diving aren’t common exercise activities for most people, but Munich-based startup Icaros GmbH is changing that with its new VR workout machine. Already, 78% of Ys say they enjoy exercising, but the VR effects provided with the Icaros machine, which promotes a core body workout, elevates the experience. Fit Star in Nuremberg, Germany was the first gym to install the Icaros, and now users can don VR headsets in more than 200 gyms and entertainment centers across Europe and Asia; Icaros GmbH plans to roll out an at-home version, too.


Seven in 10 Ys think wellness activities are an integral part of their personal identity, and those activities can now include being a race car driver, a helicopter pilot, or a Pegasus passenger thanks to the VirZOOM bike. Currently only available at demos, consumers can pre-order the VZ Sensor to turn an in-home exercise bike into a VR machine by connecting with Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive. VirZOOM has also partnered with Fitbit to automatically sync a rider’s workout with the wearable device and Life Fitness to transform some of the gym’s machines into VR devices.


Youth are more likely to have tried and liked augmented reality (31% in the U.S. and 27% in the UK) than VR. A Helsinki startup is using AR to elevate the rock climbing experience by projecting digital overlays onto climbing walls that turn them into interactive touchscreens. The graphics create games that can be played by solo climbers or multiple participants. The technology can be used on climbing walls of nearly any size at fitness and entertainment centers and playgrounds, as well as on mobile walls at events.