Virtual reality will revolutionize our world in ways we can’t even imagine today. As the next major computing platform, the world in 10 – 50 years will look like it came straight from science fiction.  Every industry will be transformed.  Here’s our view on how fitness and sports could evolve over the next few years.

Hold on to your headsets, we are in for a wild ride!

2016

2016 – Oculus Rift and HTC Vive released. Consumer level virtual reality finally arrives but it’s still at a luxury price point. These new devices enable real room-scale experiences and 6DoF. Prices will slowly fall over the next few years with each new headset version as the industry scales and more competitors jump in.

2017

2017 – Multiple wireless prototypes are announced like TPCast and Nitero to give freedom from wires, enabling full movement and better immersion.

2017 – The first VR arcades open up to bring high-end VR experiences and multiplayer competition to anybody that wants to try it. Bring a lot of quarters!

2017 – VR cardio apps are added to traditional bikes, ellipticals, rowers, and treadmills. VirZoom bikes, Holofit rowing machines, and others give the ability to do cardio while inside gamified worlds. VirZoom would later be acquired by Precor and integrated into their next line of cardio machines. Other major commercial fitness manufacturers take notice and start their own VR research and development projects.

2017 – Rift and HTC Vive players start using non-fitness based games to get a workout. Games like Audioshield, Holopoint and more active games help overweight gamers to lose fat and increase their overall health. Fitness and weight loss are secondary motivators to playing games, but they bring real world results to otherwise sedentary individuals. Transformation photos begin to pop up on social media.

2017 – Virtuix Omni, VUE VR, and other first generation omnidirectional devices bring running, jumping and other movement to traditional games like Fallout and Call of Duty as well as currently popular Vive and Rift games.

2018

(Concept image from Artefact Group)

2018 – HTC releases the Vive 2 with wireless capabilities, larger FOV, eye tracking, lighter wrist based controllers, better pixel density, and more comfort along with lighter weight and easier compatibility with third-party head straps and covers. The original Vive is still available but at half the price and together with last generation graphics card options makes VR affordable for a larger percentage of consumers. Oculus reacts by quickly announcing the Rift 2.0 with similar new capabilities but makes a big move to inside-out tracking technology, opening up full 360 and larger room/house scale possibilities.

2018 – Small VR boutique gyms open with the first resistance training devices that can be used inside virtual reality experiences. Muscle building is now possible inside VR and university studies show better results than traditional weight lifting. People give more effort inside a game environment and perceive less pain, enabling them to complete more reps and higher volume which translates into more muscle and strength gains. Long term adherence to VR resistance training programs is double what a normal gym sees, creating lasting fitness improvements.

2018 – In a Stanford study, participants that learned to juggle, play darts, and shoot pool in VR attained higher skill levels than participants using traditional methods. In a single elimination darts tournament, the VR trained people won 89% of the time.

2019

(Concept from Yanko Design)

2019 – Under Armour partners with LG to release sport HMDs for PC and mobile. Finally there is a lighter and more comfortable headset with sweat proof technology to make VR workouts more enjoyable. Adjusting and re-adjusting the headset during a workout is a thing of the past and takes away one of the major objections for new users.

2019 – Chris Pratt trains exclusively in virtual reality for a boxing movie, showcasing his best physique yet. Mainstream news organizations take notice and the idea of VR Fitness becomes known worldwide.

2019 – Virtual reality apps created specifically for fitness are released by P90x, Jillian Michaels, lululemon, and other forward thinking trainers and fitness companies. Feeling like you are working out directly with Tony Horton and being guided by his training software makes high-end personal training available to anybody, anywhere, at a tiny fraction of the cost.

2019 – CES opens dedicated VR fitness expo hall.

2019 – Abandoning YouTube and Instagram, personal trainers and fitness influencers flock to VR to deliver workout programs directly to users all around the world. You can now have any top trainer as your coach or you can join their class virtually no matter where you actually live.

2019 – VR competitive sports launch and begin to grow. Naturally, as more fitness and sports based VR games become popular, players look for ways to compete to see who is the best. Multiplayer rankings and brackets lead to the formation of amateur leagues.

2019 – High end gym chains like Equinox add VR cardio and resistance devices to differentiate and compete with the boutique VR gyms that are gaining traction nationwide.

2019 – First official professional VR sports league forms named the Virtual Reality Society for Unreal Sports (VRSUS). VR pro athletes are announced after winning local tournaments. Sponsorship contracts with clothing, energy drink, and headset makers motivate more users to compete. Dellon Curry is the first VR athlete to be known worldwide by a mainstream audience due to his good looks, flashy style, and his uncanny ability to seemingly see in all directions at once.

2019 – Warehouse scale gym environments are made possible by Optitrack and Phase One with VR tracked barbells, dumbbells, and machines in a multiplayer environment. Members have the option to use full VR headsets or Augmented Reality glasses to participate.

2020

2020 – The VRSUS sports league world championships have more total viewers than game seven of the NBA championships this same year, cementing VR sports as a legitimate new sports league.

2020 – Mobile AR fitness apps are released to gamify jogging, cycling, and group classes, increasing compliance and workout program retention. Data visualization, gamification, social integration and AI trainers give better workout programming and higher motivation.

2020 – Football field sized play areas allow outdoor VR multiplayer fitness and sports experiences. High school fields, previously abandoned due to less kids going to a physical school in lieu of a virtual class, find another use and bring visitors back.

2020 – AR gym apps for the Microsoft Hololens 2 and Magic Leap bring traditional equipment into the VR/AR landscape. Object recognition and smartcodes on each barbell and dumbbell guides users through a workout using AI machine learning technology.

2020 – More fans watch the World Cup from a VR headset than actually attend in person. This creates higher fan satisfaction due to better seats and cheaper tickets while increasing overall ticket revenue. VR audience members do not create a mess and are not susceptible to terrorist attacks, an increasing and unnecessary security risk.

2021

2021 – Large gym chains like 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness roll out VR equipment as an option for premium members. This option incentivizes more members to upgrade to higher per month membership fees, increasing revenue for the club and improving retention.

2021 – A majority of surveyed sports and strength coaches use VR to improve athletic training. Athletes can run game simulations to improve sports intelligence and motor skills. Quarterbacks read defenses, baseball players use tracked bats to improve batting, and soccer players practice penalty kicks. Realistic physics and competitor AI mimics and improves on real life.

2021 – High end VR resistance and cardio devices are released for home use now that prices have come down for the base technology. Black Box VR’s pulley cable system with advanced AI training makes it possible to get a full workout in 30 minutes inside an addictive virtual reality experience right in your own home. Technogym announces the Kinesis VR wall as a partnership with Black Box VR. Other fitness equipment manufacturers update their cardio devices, removing the touch screen and adding a sport HMD.

2021 – IBM releases the first AI personal trainer, named “tr.ai.ner”. The advanced software is available as an AR or VR app. tr.ai.ner uses big data and advanced machine learning to deliver focused workouts and advice to individuals. Widely regarded as the smartest personal trainer in history, it uses data from millions of individuals to fine tune recommendations for maximum results in the shortest amount of time.

2021 – Full body tracking from cheap outside cameras removes need for wearable trackers. This helps lower the cost for participation and removes the need charging and cleaning.

2021 – Recent IHRSA research reports indicate that VR gyms have overtaken traditional gyms with 51% of members. The study finds that members get vastly better results, stick to their programs for nearly 300% longer, and report much higher satisfaction with their gym membership compared to non-VR gyms.

2021 – Newly released body measurement devices like brain control interfaces, muscle electromyography readers, heart rate monitors, blood sugar monitors, and eye tracking help to monitor the body’s response to every movement, delivering a more effective and safer workout routines. Detection algorithms can stop the workout moments before predicted injury or overtraining.

2021 – Augmented sports glasses launch to combine AR and VR capabilities in a much smaller, mobile form factor that can be worn all day.

2022

2022 – US President Kanye West cuts the ribbon at the opening of the first VRSUS virtual reality sports stadium in San Jose, California. Ten other stadiums are announced for the US and Canada and will be built over the next two years.

2022 – VR sports clothing line Vortex overtakes Adidas as third largest sportswear line in the USA. The Vortex line not only represents high fashion but integrates fabrics and sensors that help improve performance and comfort inside virtual reality.

2022 – The NFL allows augmented reality helmets for the first time, bringing coaching, player awareness, safety upgrades, and first-person 360 audience viewing. The best seats are no longer on the side of the field but inside a VR headset that brings you to any position on the field.

2023

2023 – Professional tennis allows VR competitors to compete in the same tournaments as regular players. The physics and mapping of body movements are finally one-to-one with reality, making it a fair competition and opening up upgraded gameplay visuals, “play anywhere” capabilities to reduce costs, jet lag, and environmental impact and better display for the audience members that are watching from inside VR.

2023 – A huge scandal erupts as the VR ping pong Olympic gold medalist from Italy was later disqualified for using an AI physics hack to cheat in the final match. Officials from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Committee award the gold medal to the silver medalist and vow to increase security monitoring in future competitions.

2024

2024 – The uncanny virtual valley has been defeated. Field of view and retina display makes VR worlds indistinguishable from reality in side-by-side tests. Users that wore an HMD showing a virtual world couldn’t tell the difference between that and the real world.

2024 – The first community of metaversians (people that primarily live inside VR and only come out for less than an hour per day) start to develop wasting diseases from not using their physical bodies enough. New VR fitness experiences are created and metaverse leaders urge their citizens to use them for at least 30 minutes per day to maintain their underused physical body.  To decrease caloric needs and reduce his chances of bed sores from forming, one metaverse citizen voluntarily undergoes leg removal surgery. “I can transport anywhere in the metaverse with a thought, so why do I need these meat sacks attached to my body?”, he comments.

2027

2027 – Genetic engineering and biotech advancements create a simple procedure to permanently increase your health and fitness without the need for workouts and good nutrition. All gyms and fitness companies close by the end of the year.

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