After articles about immersive technologies in entertainment, marketing, retail, education, art and museums, employee training, healthcare, construction, and other industries, we dedicate this post to the adoption of virtual and augmented reality in fitness.
AR and VR deliver real-time immersive experiences with the help of various devices. AR superimposes digital imagery on the physical environment and objects viewed through a device, such as a smartphone camera or smart glasses. VR allows interactions with virtual objects in completely made-up environments using a headset, controllers, and wearables.
The global online/virtual fitness market size was valued at $6,046 million in 2019 and was projected to grow at a CAGR of 33% until reaching $59,231 million by 2027. During the pandemic, workouts moved outside or into people’s living rooms and backyards, aided by online videos, live-streams, and mobile fitness apps. After gyms re-opened, some people continued to enjoy working out in the safety and comfort of their homes.
However, while these media help access training sessions, plan workouts, and keep pace, their limitations don’t allow for improving a user’s technique. This is what the latest AR applications are made for. Simultaneously, virtual reality offers games and entertainment that can help most sedentary people burn calories and change the overall perception of fitness.
This article is for entrepreneurs interested in leveraging AR and VR for fitness and sports. We’ll list their benefits and primary use cases and briefly explain how app developers can enrich their offer with immersive experiences.
The differences in the interaction with the real world determine the different ways to use AR and VR for exercising. This greatly affects VR and fitness.
In a virtual workout environment, a user’s body becomes the controller. For instance, if their character in a boxing game punches an opponent, the user has to move in real life. VR headsets blocking the light and real world from the wearer’s view and claiming their full attention essentially preclude interaction with physical objects and persons. This may cause dizziness in some users and pose safety risks when users work out.
An AR headset or smart glasses let wearers stay present in the physical world and aware of the current situation while acting as a co-pilot during workouts. For example, users can project a coach’s hologram in their living room or watch a coach performing the correct form in front of them while viewing their heartbeat rate and other indicators on the smart glasses’ lens.
AR fitness applications can also run on mobile devices, but carrying a smartphone and sticking one’s eyes to the screen all the time while exercising is counterproductive, if not dangerous. For this reason, we can expect the growth of safer and more efficient hands-free solutions.
Modern AR headsets already have lighter, more sunglass-like designs that prevent sweat deposits and facilitate cleanup. This makes them suitable for fitness and active gaming. Lightweight devices with dual wireless controllers with six degrees of freedom (6 DoF) that allow for accurate movement tracking along six axes to pinpoint the position and orientation of the user’s hands promote further adoption of AR in fitness.
5G speeds will support advances in SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping), better software and lightweight standalone AR headsets, and their uses beyond the limits of WiFi, such as outdoor workouts and sports.
Meanwhile, the application of VR and AR in fitness already makes exercising more fun, engaging, and effective, overcoming most of the cited obstacles to exercising.
Finding time to attend a gym may be challenging with busy schedules. Some people are still hesitant about crowded spaces. AR and VR can partly simulate a gym experience; the trend accelerated during the pandemic, but its benefits remain relevant. It’s easier to don a VR headset or smart glasses than go to the gym or even search for videos. Users can work out, often without any sports equipment, at whatever time and location they like.
Apathy and shyness prevent many people from exercising at gyms. With fitness VR, users don’t need to travel there at fixed times and interact with coaches and others. Instead, they can work out as much as they want, at their own pace, in the privacy of their home, without any embarrassment or peer pressure. Moreover, they can do so in short increments, e.g., several 10-minute game sessions throughout the day.
Immersive AR and VR technologies enable people to create a favorite customized workout environment anywhere, e.g., on a trip.
AR and VR applications can make exercising easier by offering instructional videos and real-time guidance through each phase of a training session. They can also feature reminders that promote regular exercise.
San Francisco State University researchers found that "moderate to vigorous intensity" exercise occurs when people engage in certain kinds of VR-based video games. Occasionally, it may burn as many calories as a medium to intense exercise.
Some VR games weren’t initially made for fitness but gradually have earned a reputation as engaging and engrossing calorie-burners. More games are specifically designed to get players up and moving and steadily pump up the action to maximize heart rate. Such programs focusing on cardiovascular exercise and getting the muscles working can rival the most intense spin class or group workout setting for overall fitness benefits.
There is also a link between physical activity and improvements in patients with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, so it might be beneficial to include AR/VR features in mental health apps.
VR hardware designed to track a wearer’s most minute movements is excellent for tracking workouts. AR/VR-enabled apps and devices can record more real-time data, e.g., the number of steps, kilometers done, time taken, speed, calories burned, etc., to help users adjust the intensity of their workouts, assess their effectiveness, track progress, and compare with others.
For example, a wearable device integrated with AR can help users maintain the heart rate at a level appropriate for their age and ensure they work hard enough without over-straining. Having these details at one’s fingertips is crucial for athletes. Coaches can also analyze a recorded workout session to point out mistakes and make recommendations.
Studies suggest that 44% of inactive people don’t exercise because it is not fun. People quickly get bored with repetitive tasks. Gyms and health clubs may utilize VR technology to make exercises more exciting and AR to make workouts more enjoyable, effective, and safe.
Immersion in a virtual environment and engagement with a game prevents the brain from noticing exercise-induced pain, discomfort, and how hard the body works. Most players reportedly estimate their perceived exertion as lower than what it is. When people are doing something they enjoy, rather than counting and pushing through the pain of one more rep, they are more likely to repeat the experience and eventually build a habit.
Users can exercise in virtual reality both solo, which helps build beginners’ confidence, and with virtual crowds or real people, which can be more motivating.
A VR fitness game can also be highly addictive, as players try to improve their scores each time. Competition against other people isn’t always a part of traditional workouts, but some games offer this opportunity, which makes players work out harder to improve their indicators and scores and increase their position on the scoreboard. Seeing their progress can inspire them to keep going and reach their fitness goals.
These benefits translate into the following significant advantages for fitness companies and app developers:
Enhanced brand visibility. The application of state-of-the-art technology attracts the attention of younger, tech-savvy, and affluent audiences. It also creates a reputation of a modern brand offering the best experiences for its customers.
Competitive advantage. All of the stimulating immersive experiences, gamification, efficiency, and other benefits delivered by AR/VR features can make a fitness app more useful and valuable than the competitors’ offers.
Reaching new audiences. VR is often perceived as geared toward the “gamer” demographic, especially teens and people in their 20s. Fitness-oriented VR games can thus entice users who wouldn’t think about extra activities otherwise. VR-enabled home workouts will appeal to people that feel intimidated to exercise in public, and sensors, navigation, and statistics – to professional athletes.
Dynamic VR workouts of different types can cater to people of all shapes, skill levels, and ages. Customers happy with your innovative and delightful fitness experience will likely share it on social media and recommend it to their friends, colleagues, and followers, bringing you new customers.
Higher customer engagement. The adoption of AR and VR in fitness centers can encourage more customers to attend regularly and continue with their workouts. The additional value in your fitness product will persuade them to stay with you longer.
Turning workouts into games allows app developers to capitalize on the human desire for instant rewards and achievements instead of waiting for weeks to see the results of workouts. The exclusive focus, more enjoyable process, and perceived lower exertion during VR fitness games mean that players can play and stick with a game longer. So do the abilities to live-stream, record, and share workouts, and to exercise together with friends, family, and others digitally. This leads to better customer retention, higher revenue per customer, and other key indicators.
Higher revenue. Gyms and fitness clubs employing AR and VR technology to make exercises more fun, effective, and safe for members will be able to increase their earnings. A provider delivering a higher quality service that puts it ahead of the game can raise the prices.
Now that you know some of the benefits of AR/VR features for workout app developers, businesses, and consumers, let us classify the ways to leverage those features.
People choosing to exercise at home may practice high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, or Pilates with the help of VR headsets and virtual coaches.
For example, FitXR offers boxing, HIIT, and dance workouts varying in length from minutes to an hour for beginners, intermediate, and advanced users. A team of professional fitness instructors designed and choreographed them to offer a new class every day of the week. Users can choose the virtual environments and burn calories and improve their strength to new tracks from popular artists on their own or with up to six friends in real time.
Supernatural offers fast-paced cardio and full-body workouts (boxing, hitting targets, etc.). Its gamified experiences take users to breathtaking locations where live-action coaches provide one-on-one routines, stand by their side, motivate, and give tips to fuel the users’ progress.
An AR fitness app can also include a hologram coach feature so that users can project a virtual personal instructor at the gym or at home via smart glasses or tablet, e.g., for yoga or daily exercise session. The virtual coach can demonstrate routines and techniques, provide tips and encouragement, and voice the calories burned and other indicators.
Many people consider regular exercise challenging because routines tend to grow monotonous. AR and VR can help ensure workout sessions are exciting and feel different every day.
Firstly, applications can be designed to meet a variety of training demands, allowing users to mix up their workout routines. Secondly, immersive media have the power to make experiences more valuable and unique.
Supernatural enables users to experience destinations as fantastic as the ruins of Machu Picchu or the Martian surface. This method may transform exercising on a stationary bike, treadmill, or rowing machine.
For example, VirZOOM’s “VZfit Sensor Kit” attached to a stationary bike coupled with an Oculus VR headset can take a user thousands of miles away from their living room or health club, e.g., to the desert of Arizona or the Game of Thrones locations. They can follow a virtual trainer, compete with fellow cyclists, or even ride Pegasus through a canyon.
Gamification refers to applying typical elements of game-playing – such as point scoring, competition, and rules of play – to an activity. Fitness software developers should gamify every program as much as possible to ensure high user retention, customer loyalty, and various monetization opportunities.
AR has the potential to make exercise more exciting, active, and enjoyable by incorporating interactive aspects, such as checkpoints and timers, games, and rewarding elements, into routines. For instance, instead of simply jogging, users may chase cute 3D creatures or go “treasure hunting” with a hybrid of a regular fitness app and Pokemon Go. VR may add even more intrigue, adventure, and gratification to a full-body exercise. In this way, the technologies of additional and virtual reality are directly involved in the development of fitness applications.
Black Box VR has gone further than providing gamified gym experiences and virtual coaches. Their award-winning dynamic resistance machine re-imagines the use of VR in gym workouts and the overall fitness experience. The system captures over 50,000 data points, and artificial intelligence analyzes it to tailor each workout in real-time, e.g., instantly changing the resistance levels or keeping the user from making a wrong motion repeatedly.
AR also makes working out more entertaining, informative, and engaging by adding tutorials, videos, tips, etc. For example, image recognition or marker-based AR technology can help smartphone users understand how some tricky fitness machines or equipment work.
AR-powered devices can help personalize, facilitate, and add more fun and safety to workouts and games with real-time data. For instance, Solos Smart Glasses come with geofencing and activity tracking capabilities and pair easily with a mobile device. The smart glasses track the user’s steps, distance traveled, calories burned, active minutes, sleep, and heart rate, merge the performance data, and put them all in front of the user, helping to customize their workouts. The glasses also allow recording the workout routine.
The Golfshot mobile app features real-time GPS distances – to the center, front, and back of the green – and, with Golfshot Pro, interactive distances to all hazards, layups, and targets.
Beat Saber is an iconic early example of how VR games engage players in active exercise, primarily air punches, squats, and kicks. In this rhythm game, players slash targets and dodge obstacles coming from varied angles to upbeat music in a futuristic world. Sound and visual effects accompany each cut, emphasizing the rhythm and making players almost dance and burn calories.
The newer OhShape game includes dodging virtual obstacles, striking dance poses to pass through some walls, and punching others using controllers. Players have fun and actively move their whole bodies, hardly realizing it. Four difficulty levels and various gameplay settings allow customizing the experience to each player’s skills. Players can practice level sections to perfection, compete with friends and family, and complete workout challenges.
Creed: Rise to Glory offers players an opportunity to challenge their body and mind by playing or fighting iconic boxers in an immersive universe inspired by the Creed™ films. Users can play in Freeplay or PvP modes. Phantom Melee Technology mimics the real-life effects of throwing and taking punches, such as the out-of-body sensation of getting knocked out. Players can increase their cardiovascular strength with Endurance Mode and track burned calories and workout time.
The potential of augmented reality in transforming games into workouts is more modest, but app developers explore the opportunities. For example, AR Runner has players run through digital dots projected on the ground as quickly as possible.
VR has the potential to be used by professionals. For example, VR fitness games can help build an athlete’s coordination when a live training session is not possible. Boxing games offer opportunities to hone precision. Targets are angled to make players imitate the motion of a hook, jab, or uppercut, and they have to guess which side to punch from, when to duck, or whether a jab, a cross, or a hook is coming. Precision and speed earn them points.
There are more VR games on the market geared toward sports. However, due to VR’s limitations regarding interactions with the real world, it is primarily augmented reality that is expected to help enhance the skills of professional athletes and enthusiasts. Both mobile devices and hands-free solutions can be used.
One great example of augmented reality fitness app development is Homecourt, an official NBA partner. This mobile app was created using the expertise of prominent basketball players to adjust the users’ training and techniques. It captures all of the user’s shots, moves, and stats and provides real-time feedback and analysis. Immersive drills and workouts that feel more like a video game encourage users to stick to them, practice more, and achieve better results.
Everysight developed Raptor AR smart glasses for cyclists and triathletes. Route navigation, time, distance, speed, heart rate, cadence, and power are displayed in high-resolution in the athlete’s line of sight while keeping their vision clear. A look-and-shoot camera captures high-definition video for eventual analysis.
If you wish to implement VR into a fitness app for your company or the public, we would recommend consulting experienced VR developers first. Experts can help you:
If the consulting VR development agency proves competent, reliable, and affordable, you can hire the specialists for the subsequent phases of your virtual reality fitness app development:
Basically, the same process applies if you want to build an AR mobile app or implement AR into a fitness app you already have. Some of the AR features that can enrich your app experience and make it more competitive include:
It is not enough to understand what AR-powered features you want to include in your product. You need to know exactly why you need these features, how they will work and further your business objectives, how you will monetize them, and so forth. Since many crucial questions will require answers as early as possible, it is reasonable to engage a reliable fitness software development company from the onset.
VR is emerging as the next big computing and consumer platform, and VR headsets and smart glasses with embedded AR may become as ubiquitous as laptops and smartphones in several years.
Currently, even the best VR headsets on the market are still too heavy to wear for hours. There are also risks to the users’ eyesight and overall balance, motion sickness when a multisensory stimulation goes wrong, and even neck injuries. We may have to wait a few years until manufacturers fix these issues and the headsets look more like regular glasses. Next-generation suits, gloves, and gadgets for more realistic and beneficial experiences are also on the way.
Another major impediment to the broad adoption of VR and AR in fitness is the cost of hardware and software. Besides the headset, consumers may end up buying additional equipment like weights or haptic devices, and finally, they will have to pay for installing the fitness programs. However, the prices are likely to go down gradually, as often happens with electronics.
Together with developments in technology, these factors will pave the way to new possibilities for employing VR in gym, private, and outdoor settings.
The AR glasses industry also develops lighter and user-friendlier models, making it easier to work out while wearing them. These smart glasses and headsets will bridge the gap between gaming and traditional fitness activities. The technologies upon which AR is being built are evolving, and 5G will be a crucial enabler for more efficient outdoor experiences.
Consumers, particularly people who travel frequently, will be able to work out from any place, anytime, without compromising quality and intensity. We can also expect to see more AR-VR in exercise sessions and customized training regimes.
The reach, adoption, and impact of VR will grow as entrepreneurs, developers, and consumers understand and take advantage of its full potential. Soon, we will likely see the rise of fitness studios offering immersive tech-driven approaches to exercise.
The types of exercise available in virtual reality will proliferate in the months and years to come. App developers will also likely focus on resistance and strength training elements as opposed to the mostly cardiovascular training offered currently.
Simultaneously, research, testing, and rating of VR games will begin, such as measuring the actual calorie expenditure and other KPIs for various games, for the benefit of specialists and consumers interested in obesity prevention, rehabilitation, therapy, etc.
The next step will be the socialization and virtual competitions that may bring about new entertainment industry.
AR can enhance the current fitness trends, enable new exercise modes, and create new sports, involving more people in the fitness movement.
We may not continually notice how we get used to all these innovations. Meanwhile, cutting-edge technologies, daring entrepreneurs, and developers pushing the boundaries are already changing the world. Join the revolution today! Get in touch with Onix’s AR/VR team now!
Some examples of AR-powered features in fitness apps include real-time data visualization, gamification elements, holographic coaches, and edutainment content.
Currently, the advantages of using AR in fitness include increased user engagement, brand visibility, and extended audiences. In the future, AR can enhance the current fitness trends, create new fitness regimes and sports, and enable new revenue streams.
Yes. The completely immersive nature and interactive quality of VR experiences, data collection, and intelligent feedback make it a perfect tool for people who wish to keep fit independently.
The primary benefits for the consumers include convenience, efficiency, and increased motivation. Entrepreneurs that invest in virtual and augmented reality fitness app development can expect: