We’ve heard the pitch before. You hate the gym? Find a game that will help you get fit. And for millions of people, the quest began in search of something to help chisel off the flab of living life too large. For some, just getting up and doing the bare minimum offered from games like those on the Wii was great—to a point. The true goal of fitness, as any true fitness enthusiast knows, is far beyond just getting on your feet. In fact, true fitness is about a lot more than that. As technology evolved, we found fitness being offered in VR and one of the forerunners of that is the French company Holodia that aspires to bring new life into public gyms across Europe and the United States. The intent is to integrate VR into workout equipment that is already in use and proven to work. By breathing new life, competition, and wonder into familiar systems, they are poised to take the industry of commercial gyms by storm and make us rethink what a trip to the gym is all about. But does it really measure up?
The Holofit system is targeted at businesses-friendly, high end hotels, companies with gyms and large fitness clubs. With this in mind, the price of one of their systems makes more sense, but even businesses would have to think hard about the $12,000 price tag.
Let’s be clear: The $12,000 system is completely ready to use right out of the box. No add-ons or extras are hidden fees in your future if you buy this system. It includes a rowing machine controller, the computer and software to run the game, as well as an HTC Vive headset for viewing the experience. But with all of this convenience in mind, it does seem important to note that you can get all components for less than the bundle price with the exception of the software of course and a few sensors in the controllers.
While not flawless, the design of the product is really on point. The only available system at the moment is the rower, however a bike and elliptical system are in the making and due to be released soon.
The advantage the Holofit has on competitors is the integration of all its component pieces. While each one has its own flaws, the other pieces overlap to cover and fix the drawbacks of any individual piece. For instance, the HTC Vive is known to be a little bulky and to have annoying cords that get in the way. This, however, is taken care of by the rower that drapes the cords overhead and out of the way.
The Vive has a 90Hz visual refresh rate which is 10Hz above the standard, paired with 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye screen and a 110° view range. The head tracking is done through both a gyroscope and accelerometer to give the best orientation and environment tracking possible.
One thing that limits the performance of the Holofit is lack of controls. Although the focus is on the rower, it seems that the pull string is the only input besides the headset itself. But then again more controls might distract from the workout experience, though it would have been nice to see this option.
The sleek design of the Holofit is both inviting and functional as it takes up only slightly more space than a traditional rower. The all-in-one package makes the installation a breeze and it’s a pleasure to use. The Vive’s flaw of being corded down is alleviated by the suspended wire system leaving users free to experience the worlds without fear of getting tied up. However, the Vive is known to be slightly on the heavier side and prone to fog ups.
The Holofit boasts one of the lowest motion sickness rates in the industry at a shocking 3%, which is in contrast to the standard 35% that are affected negatively by their applications. This is due largely to the 90Hz refresh rate along with the custom computer designed specifically to run their applications.
To motivate people to work to their fullest, Holofit has designed several exclusive environments for players to explore and compete in. To break things down there are basically two game modes available. Exploration and player vs. player.
Exploration is exactly that. On a set path, you row along to see what fantastic new scenery you can find. These environments range from Babylon and the Amazon river to outer space. While beautiful, they contain a cartoon aspect and are easily differentiated from the real world. The set path is cleverly hidden by the fact that the player is often in a river or another small channel of water but it remains somewhat of a disappointment that more player freedom is not given.
The player vs. player is available in both real-time and leader boards by offering races and time trials. Users can use this feature to compete with others in the gym or try their hand at claiming world champion online.
There is also a performance monitoring system so individual users can keep track of their progress and a coaching application to give players advice on improvement. These offer milestones for users to track and see that they are improving.
However, all these games offer very little variety or user interaction. The graphics are beautiful, but sadly not very realistic. For the purpose of new and thrilling adventures, the limited interaction makes returning visits less and less interesting. Unless constant updates and new environments are introduced, the interest will eventually dwindle to that of walking the same route to work every day.
Now to the meat of the matter: The Holofit is a system designed around a fitness machine, and simply gives users a fun and intriguing way to use it.
The system uses the natural human curiosity to motivate players to go just a little farther. A new and interesting world is presented, but to see what is around that next corner, users have to accomplish another 50 or so reps. This is a clever method for letting gym goers forget that they are in a gym and letting them explore while working well past what they would under normal circumstances.
This product is clearly not meant for home use unless someone has thousands of dollars just sitting around. However, it could be something that becomes a regular element for some big box gyms. The games, although beautiful and fit for their purpose, are repetitive and lacklustre in the long run. But the application to fitness is executed beautifully and the potential to use this device to level up your workout experience is definitely there if you’re not looking to specifically build a lot of muscle. This is a great tool for fitness for the casual gym-goer who isn’t fond of heavy lifting and wants to lose a few pounds without realizing that their actually sweating.
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