Guest post: Would you hike in a VR gym? by Simon J. Quick


Photo credit: Ariel da Silva Parreira

Most of us think of virtual reality primarily as an in-home gaming system. Though it has numerous other applications (and seemingly more by the day), VR was billed as a way for us to dive into the sorts of gaming experiences we already enjoyed on our phones and gaming consoles. It is, essentially, a next step in immersion, and though it’s far from perfect at this stage, it is being used this way. However, the idea of VR being used as a means of simulating in-person entertainment situations has also introduced some interesting possibilities.

The main idea in this regard is that of a VR arcade in which you can move from one game to another within your VR program. Put simply, people miss classic arcade games (or at least those of us old enough to remember do). Browsing through the best arcade video games of past eras you’ll see titles like Area 51, Primal Rage, Virtua Fighter, and Crazy Taxi, to give a broad idea. There’s no guarantee that these games could be brought back via virtual reality, but they do make you remember what it was like to stop by a mall arcade or perhaps play in the lobby of the cinema, and VR does have the ability to recreate that sort of environment, with a spread of mini-games on offer. There’s a chance it could even be a social experience.

On a similar note, there is thinking among some that VR platforms could essentially revolutionize online casino spaces to make them more like the real thing. To some extent these games have already been made better and more realistic. Poker and blackjack online take place in real-time competitive environments, and there’s been a trend toward more engaging video slots that doesn’t look likely to abate any time soon. But rather than seeking out the most realistic games online, people using VR could step into full virtual casinos, moving, as with arcades, from one game to the next – possibly among other players.

Building on these concepts however is something that might be of more interest to those who like to hike or otherwise exercise in interesting places. Again, we think of VR primarily as a home gaming technology, and the ideas above – those of virtual arcades or casinos – play right into that idea. However, the very concept of a VR arcade has also quickly come to mean something else. We’re already seeing the birth of actual, physical arcades in which people can enjoy VR experiences that either aren’t suited to a smaller home space or are more expensive than the average consumer can afford.

Already in Los Angeles there are a few such venues popping up. Los Virtuality, perhaps the biggest name of them, offers a wide selection of games, from horror simulations, to Eagle Flight (a somewhat famous VR game that allows you to feel the sensation of flying over towns) to games based on sports and popular films. The idea is that you can experience all of this in one place, all through the best VR headsets and, when necessary, even additional equipment. It’s frankly a fantastic concept for a modern entertainment venue, and we have to wonder: what if such a place were to emerge solely for fitness needs?

To clarify, VR is already being put to use for exercise purposes. Some have used it to make in-home cycling more interesting, and in other cases whole new fitness machines are being built to work in conjunction with VR games. So what’s to stop a VR arcade from putting these experiences together and adding hiking with dynamic treadmills, or climbing with a safe harness and a treadmill-style climbing wall? Those who like to hike on a regular basis generally prefer to get out and about in nature – to actually feel the elements. But what if you could drive to the nearest VR gym, hook yourself into a headset and treadmill, and start hiking a mountain or walking through a favorite city clear across the world?

It opens up the potential for some truly incredible experiences, and it’s something we’ll likely be seeing before long.VRTreadmillWalk_1(1)

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