VR Fitness Intensified: Is this man the first VR Athlete?

Ville "Scie" Piispanen of Evacrity.com wants you to get a lot more out of your next VR workout!

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With so much innovation happening in VR these days, it’s hard to keep track of all the players in the game. One player we’ve been noticing a lot these days is Ville “Scie” Piispanen, the mind and body behind a VR project called Evacrity. Scie and his company are working to enhance all VR experiences to make them more real, more active and more reflective of the intensity that the experiences would actually entail in real life. What does that mean in real terms? Scie and Evacrity spend time to go through VR experiences in anything but the jeans and t-shirts you’ve probably been wearing. Are you a soldier in a game? At Evacrity, you dress like one and carry all the weight of being in soldier fatigues before you even get the HMD on your head. Just take a look at him in action walking through Doom 3 in VR where he burned 2500 calories in one session! That’s what we call an intense VR workout–and his set up is exactly that (and so is some of his language–he did want it as real as possible, after all).

In a lot of ways, they’re doing their best to make VR a little more real, and a whole lot more intense! We had a chance to talk with Scie about the moves he’s making and how it could impact on your next workout.

VRFI: How do you see the virtual reality industry right now and what is Evacrity doing that makes it stand out?

VP: Consumer virtual reality is finally taking its first steps. We don’t only take part in the movement, we are willing to shape certain fields with our own example. Evacrity is about fitness, realism and immersion and the approach seems to be very rare or even unique at the moment. We want to make virtual reality gaming sessions harder, tougher, more demanding and more realistic and showcase these possibilities to the viewers.

VRFI: We’ve seen some videos of your work! Walk us through some of the lengths you’ve gone to so you could make VR experiences more real and more intense.

VP: We do this by utilizing every single piece of equipment we can think of. Infantry soldier camouflage uniform, tactical equipment, body armors, weighted clothing, virtual reality locomotion platform, heart rate monitor and more conventional exercise equipment like kettlebells have already seen virtual reality use in our hands and there is more to come.

VRFI: You seem to have a soft spot for the First Person Shooter games. Does it bring you back to your days in the military?

VP: First person shooter games and infantry combat gear is a natural combination for me personally, because of my army background. When I step into the virtual world, I’m after a workout, exercise or both, every single time. Virtual reality gaming has helped me rebuild my aerobic base conditioning thus lowering my resting heart rate and aided my recovery from an ankle injury I got during an obstacle course race last autumn.

VRFI: All of this must be leading you to a particular personal goal. What’s your hope for your efforts at Evacrity?

VP: I aim to be the first professional cyberathlete/vAthlete/vrAthlete, World’s fittest professional gamer and to drive the physical, realistic VR competitive scene forward as a vanguard. How I see it going is a typical traditional gamer will soon be a thing of the past as competitive gaming and eSports will shift towards more physically demanding direction. Both gaming skills and physical attributes will be required if you are aiming to be successful. Wouldn’t it be more entertaining if the competitors ran with their own feet instead of using controllers?

VRFI: We totally agree, but we’ve had mixed feelings about the omnidirectional fitness treadmills and other means of locomotion in VR to date. How do you feel about what’s out there right now?

VP: I have hard time using a controller nowadays, because I’ve already used a locomotion platform and moved with my own feet in VR games. The treadmill field is a quite delicate subject, there are several products and solutions in development, but very few manufacturers have been able to deliver so far. I currently use the Wizdish ROVR treadmill, which is quite simple to use and easy to maintain and I was able to obtain one without any delays or problems. It provides me with all the necessary features right now, and the ROVR is the only treadmill I’ve used so far.

VRFI: What were your first moves as a company to make this level of intense immersion possible?

VP: Evacrity was made public at the start of April this year. I got the idea during my Middle East deployment in 2014 and it had been on the drawing board ever since, so everything would be prepared when the time came, I knew I was onto something. The wait was heartbreaking, but finally in 2017 the required technology and everything we needed as a team was available and the project was launched. In this world, it often comes down to what you can prove, not just what you can do. Evacrity was our secret until we were ready to show what we do.

VRFI: What can people expect from Evacrity going forward?

VP: We create content weekly. We make videos and stream physical gaming. We are currently upgrading our studio to make it even better. We want to relay the biggest possible amount of the virtual reality wonder we are experiencing to the viewer. I’m currently shaping a way to train strength, balance and explosiveness with VR in addition to current, mostly cardiovascular endurance approach. I’m pretty sure viewers will find this interesting. Also different types of workout videos that utilize VR will be published regularly from now on.

VRFI: What is your favorite game in VR today and why?

VP: I have two favorites, depending on if I use the ROVR treadmill or not. With the ROVR my favorite is Doom 3 VR, there’s simply so much playable content compared to pure VR games. Without the treadmill my pure VR game favorite is the John Wick Chronicles. I can’t move as much, but firearm mechanics are very well in place, so it feels natural. When I have enough time, I will break Worldwide leaderboard records with every gun in the game, currently I have 1 out of 5 in the pocket.

VRFI: What do your VR workouts look like now?

VP: I have replaced 50% of my weekly conventional cardiovascular conditioning with VR activities and I’m constantly finding, developing and testing new ways to train physical attributes effectively and safely using Virtual Reality. When necessary, I ask for advice from the best strength and conditioning professionals I know

VRFI: How does VR fitness into your overall workout plan?

VP: My approach to fitness and conditioning has always been multidimensional, I have done combat combat sports for over 20 years. On top of VR activities my typical weekly training regime consists of 1-2 weight training sessions, 2 cardio sessions, 1 circuit training session and 1-2 boxing/muay thai/brazilian jiu-jitsu sessions. Muscle maintenance and mobility are very important for recovery and to reduce the risk of injuries, so I stretch and do yoga regularly, sometimes with the HMD on. VR workouts are the icing on the cake. I aim to leave adversaries biting the dust when competitive VR scene becomes reality.

VRFI: What’s holding back VR from really making a revolution in fitness?

VP: Building a VR setup can be somewhat expensive, and many individuals still haven’t experienced VR in any form or thought about its possibilities. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if VR was already a big fitness thing in a couple of years.

VRFI: What would you recommend to people who want to workout in VR, but don’t know where to begin?

VP: I would say that a short 10-minute Internet study about the benefits of cardiovascular endurance training and aerobic, anaerobic thresholds would be a good first step. Followed by purchase of VR game Audioshield and a basic heart rate monitor. 45-70 minute Audioshield sessions 2-3 times a week provide an easy way to improve aerobic base conditioning and shed some body fat.

We’re happy to announce that Ville “Scie” Piispanen will be a regular contributor to VRFitnessInsider.com where he will be exploring how to take conventional VR gaming to a whole new level. If there’s a VR experience you’d like him to tackle specifically, sound off in the comments below!

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Michael De Medeiros
Michael is the Chief Content Officer of VR Fitness Insider. He is a brand director, strategic planner, award-winning writer and editor with more than a decade of executive experience transforming several magazines and websites with a proven track record of results, professionalism and leadership. Michael is also an American author and editor and has written or co-written over a dozen books. De Medeiros enjoyed a successful tenure as editor-in-chief of Maximum Fitness magazine and Men’s Fitness magazine.