4 Startups Transforming the Fitness Landscape Through VR Technology


Spice up your workout routine with VR technology to make it more engaging, convenient and fun!

Virtual reality (VR) technology has disrupted many industries and the fitness industry is no exception. By leveraging the immersive and interactive nature of VR technology, many startups have created unique, customizable and engaging workout experiences for users that traditional workout routines can’t match. A research paper published in 2020 in the British Journal of Health Psychology also supports the notion that VR technology can make exercise more enjoyable and less arduous for users.

Aside from its engagement benefits, VR fitness offers users the convenience of doing guided exercise from the comfort of their homes at any time. It allows users to fit their workout around their lifestyle rather than the other way around. This is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and stay-at-home measures were in place. Moreover, VR fitness is a better option for those who feel uncomfortable working out in public spaces, such as gyms and fitness studios.  

In this article, we will explore four startups that are leveraging VR technology’s power to reinvent fitness.


Image courtesy of VirZoom

Cambridge-based video game startup VirZoom uses VR technology to inspire users to shed those extra pounds through gaming with their VZ stationary exercise bike. Compatible with popular headsets such as PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the VZ bike has speed and direction sensors and imaginative games that engage users’ calf muscles and offer a surreal experience. 

The VR games feature different modes that users can explore by pedaling on the stationary exercise bike. These modes include driving a tank on a snowy trail, racing in a Formula 1 car and even riding on the mythical Greek flying horse Pegasus.

Launched in 2016, the exercise bike was marketed for home use and came with five VR games as a package deal for US$399, making it an affordable and convenient option. In 2018, the startup shifted its focus from manufacturing bikes to concentrating on VR equipment. They launched the VZFit kit, which comprises a VR headset, a television display and sensors that can be affixed to any stationary bicycle.

Black Box VR

Image courtesy of Black Box VR

Founded in 2016 by Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, Black Box VR is the world’s first VR gym that uses VR technology to transform traditional eSports into a physically active full-body workout. The idea behind the company is to make exercise more engaging and addictive by creating an immersive experience that feels like a game. 

Black Box VR’s gym facilities feature individual workout booths with a fully automated cable resistance machine, VR hardware and eSport software. The resistance machine provides users with strength training capabilities, and the VR hardware and eSport software create an immersive gaming experience. This allows them to integrate their functional training into imaginative realms. For instance, gym members can exercise to rescue a city or discover treasure, experiencing the resistance of virtual objects in the real world and utilizing their bodies as the controller.

It comes with a companion app that streamlines the scheduling of workouts and the reservation of booths. When it’s time for their workout, they can just put on the high-tech VR headset and immerse themselves in various simulations that seamlessly blend with the movements of their physical exercise routines.

The company uses HTC Vive Pro technology to provide users with an intense and fully customized workout experience that is tailored to their fitness level and preferences. Whether users are new to working out or seasoned fitness enthusiasts, the VR workout the company offers is an experience unlike any other.


Image courtesy of FitXR

BoxVR is a VR fitness game developed by the British startup FitXR. The game combines boxing workouts set with music rhythm-based gameplay to offer an engaging and effective exercise experience while punching to the beat of your favorite tunes.

Upon launching the game, users have to input their age and weight to access its assortment of exercise programs categorized by duration, from approximately five to ten minutes up to an extensive hour of uninterrupted virtual boxing. In addition to boxing, BoxVR also provides users with a wide range of different workout options curated by fitness instructors. These options include short three-minute warm-ups to longer 20+ minute endurance workouts. The game keeps track of each workout and estimates the number of calories burned over time.

BoxVR is compatible with the PlayStation VR headset and can be played on the PS5 console, allowing users to enjoy the game’s immersive VR experience on the latest gaming hardware from Sony.

Icaros GmbH

Image courtesy of Icaros

In 2015, Icaros GmbH, a German startup, developed a VR exercise machine designed for both gym and home use. This innovative fitness system enables users to engage in workouts resembling pilates while immersed in a VR environment that simulates the sensation of flying or diving deep into the ocean. Throughout the workout experience, users maintain a horizontal plank-like position as they soar through diverse virtual environments, making it a highly engaging and unique way to exercise. 

The Icaros motion platform and integrated controller constitute the system, with specialized apps for different headsets like Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The company’s VR apps provide a range of experiences, including flying, diving, free-falling and competing with other Icaros pilots worldwide in the form of the company’s own multiplayer online race, ICARACE. 

To operate the system, users position their elbows, forearms and knees inside padded cups, don a VR headset and grip a handle with each hand. The primary mode of control involves utilizing core muscles in the abdomen, back and legs to tilt the device for navigation during flight or diving simulations. Additionally, players can fire targets during the game using a hand controller.

These innovative startups are breaking free from traditional exercise methods and opening up new possibilities for fitness through VR technology. Their engaging and immersive experiences revolutionize how people approach physical activity, making it more enjoyable and motivating. Despite obstacles such as the high cost of VR equipment and the need to educate consumers, the promising advantages of VR fitness suggest that it could become a leading force in the fitness industry. The rise of VR fitness presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, enabling people to achieve their fitness goals in exciting ways.

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