Level Up with Blackbox VR.

2018 feels like a big year in VR. I could feel it just browsing the Steam Winter Sale, with all of the VR titles on full display at prices that felt like a good entry point. Those of you who got a headset this year made out like bandits with a wealth of games to choose from. Now that you’re situated, you might be wondering what’s next.

We’ve got some good news. VR is exploding in a big way. There has never been a wider selection of games on competing platforms, with a wide audience like this before. VR will even hit your local fitness center in the very near future. Better technology is coming too, fulfilling the promise of more exploratory and immersive experiences. Read on for a breakdown of what CES tells us about VR.

Room Scale is the Future

Room scale means mobility increases and better workout potential. VR is also creating, or injecting life into, an old industry turned new: the arcade. The arcade has evolved to become more like a game center, with powerful PCs and eSport competition. More and more, VR is becoming a centerpiece of these experiences.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu6L6XqV1CI&w=560&h=315]

Voxel is a self-contained offering debuting at CES that offers arcade owners a new way to attract visitors. It has fitness potential, with dodging and “Pong” style mini games, as well as some unique casual experiences geared toward the Dave and Busters crowd. It’s more of a self-contained virtual experience, than the VR we typically think of with a visor, but the accessories and visual/auditory feedback provide a sense of realism.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AfiEfpuLM0&w=560&h=315]

Blackbox VR is also teasing a revolutionary new experience in fitness. The resistance machine pairs with VR and uses your body as the controller. Your strength and endurance will affect how far you progress. Blackbox is gamifying fitness in a whole new way with unique challenges, and intriguing game design based around pushing you toward fitness goals that lead to real progress. A leaderboard feature allows a community element, where everyone competes for the top spot.

Mobile VR is Growing

Mobile VR has often been viewed as the sideshow to the main event. It has some great apps to encourage movement, and AR adds some interesting twists that keep us engaged, but mobile VR has really lacked in accessories.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzpp4lKN6O4&w=560&h=315]

If CES hype tells us anything, that market is about to go through some dramatic changes.

FreeFly VR is my favorite pick from this batch of offerings. Already available, the company will be showing off the latest edition, alongside some of the games built for the device. FreeFly’s “Glide” controller pairs with your phone via bluetooth for more tactile options.

That said, more devices can run VR applications than ever before. Based on what I see at CES, I’m wondering if the mobile VR hype might move toward a communal experience. I can imagine VR chat replacing phones or video calling for some in the very near future, and being used as a way to meet up for a more engaging (and probably physically challenging) VR experience.

Better Technology is Here

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzK3p0d7GM4&w=560&h=315]

Wireless VR is basically here with TPCast already available. We reached out to their support team to confirm shipping takes only 3-5 business days and your Vive or Rift is wireless. Neat!

New accessories on the horizon promise better room and people scanning, which may help improve range of motion or utilization of space. The Vive and Rift both require you to set up your space ahead of time, mounting tracking brackets and creating a space to move around in. Better room scanning might provide tracking for movements like jumping, which can be difficult in VR because you don’t always have “legs” within an application.

While not aimed at consumers, the Orbbec is one excellent example. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a device with the brains of an Orbbec style camera reading and understanding more about our spaces and our movements. A gym of the future might use Orbbec style cameras to critique the form of your deadlift, preventing injury and unnecessary strain.

Sharing Your Experiences

Fitness thrives when you can share accomplishments, and VR is set to provide more ways than ever to connect with friends and dominate the community. There is no shortage of technologies that boast a more immersive cinematic experience, but Gyroptic stands out to me as the best of the consumer offerings at CES.

Gyroptic is a 360 degree camera that feels built for the mobile VR experience, which has a lot of sightseeing components to it. With Gyroptic, you attach the device to your phone and use it not unlike a GoPro (a big hit in the extreme athletic community). What appears missing right now is the capability to directly stream to a platform like Twitch, which I believe is crucial for the VR eSports experience.

Final Thoughts

CES is going to be big this year, and we are so excited for what this means for VR. More accessories to improve motion tracking and feedback, better technology that improves our immersion, and the possibility of a true fitness experience are all on the horizon.

Also, stay on the lookout for how these companies are using motion and interaction in VR. The Vive can feel a little clunky in a poorly designed application. How will developers get around those limitations in the future? I think new applications and technology at CES 2018 might clue us into what we can expect from VR as a software platform too.