Unlike ordinary exercise bikes at the gym, the NordicTrack VR Bike makes you forget that you’re even pedaling.
“You have to continue to pedal, or else you’ll go down,” a NordicTrack representative told me as I sat transfixed upon what I was supposed to believe was an exercise bike. In the meantime, I was airborne, navigating through mountain ridges and diving between golden rings as I shot down approaching targets. With my head stuck inside of an HTC Vive Focus headset, the only thing I wanted to do was explore the fantastical world I’d found myself lost in.
The game was called Aeronauts, one of the prepackaged fitness games that are slated to arrive alongside the entire $2000 package this upcoming summer. It was one of the most novel yet strange things I’ve played with in VR thus far, and yet it felt like something I could imagine myself reasonably booting up every day if I had a home set.
In terms of technical specs: I didn’t pay attention to the proprietary iFit resistance features, which the company claims let the user work with a personal trainer to adjust incline/decline and resistance. I also ignored the details of the panel on the front of the bike, which digitally represents vital information about the efficiency of your workout. I did, however, notice the built-in fan blowing on me as I sped up. That was probably the coolest part of the entire demo. While I was busy gliding from ring to ring, the fan added a level of sensory detail to Aeronauts which both allowed the headset to breathe and teased out a higher level of immersion than plain 3D graphics could have achieved alone.
However, some of the tighter turns made it difficult for me to telegraph whether to continue pedaling or slow down. Unfortunately, whenever I stopped pedaling, I realized that my avatar’s capacity to turn around sharp corners in the game had grown clumsy and ineffective. As a result, I repeatedly found myself with no other option than to crash into a rock wall or fly off-course before I could turn myself all the way back around towards my next goal. It was jarring, to say the least.
While I found that the overall experience of playing Aeronauts was compelling as hell, I might have also been too drunk on the novelty of playing with the NordicTrack VR Bike to notice any ill effects. However, I can see how others might have some issues with motion sickness if they play with the NordicTrack VR Bike long enough. Brenda Stolyar of PCMag experienced light motion sickness on a full stomach during her CES demo of the same game.
Finally, there’s a multiplayer element to Aeronauts that I spoke with the NordicTrack representatives about briefly. While I’m not sure if what I experienced was synchronously connected to other players, the company claims that there will be players working out with and meeting up with one another to play games across connected NordicTrack VR Bikes. The representative I spoke to also promised within the ballpark of three games launching alongside the device. He also mentioned the possibility of additional content coming to the NordicTrack VR Bike platform in the future.
Overall, the (roughly) four minutes I had with the NordicTrack VR Bike were blissful. I walked away coated in a few stray drops of sweat, but nothing I’m not already accustomed to when I complete a home workout. As I stated previously, I did not experience notable discomfort. Though I could also have some sort of superpower that makes me impervious to motion sickness.
Does the NordicTrack VR Bike seem like something you’d pay a membership to use regularly? Let us know in the comments.