Today, we’re welcoming back Jake Phillips of Twisted Reality VR. He recently completed his 90-day fitness challenge and would like to share his results with our readers. The East Coast entrepreneur is one of the minds behind the US distribution of the Kat Walk mini, a new kind of VR treadmill that looks like it belongs in arcades. This challenge was something of a stress test, a marketing idea, and a fitness push all at once. In short, could Jake prove the device’s worth?
For 90 days, he gave it the college try donning sneakers and strapping himself into the Kat Walk Mini. Driven by only one mantra: GAME HARD, GET FIT!
So, how’d he do? Read on and see for yourself the results of gaming your way to a better you.
What is the Kat Walk?
Before we dive into Jake’s experience, and his results, let’s talk about the Kat Walk Mini. The device bills itself as the world’s first non-restrictive method of locomotion in VR.
The original unit is a gargantuan piece of technology, but it does cable management well and leaves you feeling unencumbered. The Mini substantially shrinks all of that for the home experience.
The Mini is much smaller, its base only about 190 pounds with a “treadmill” surface designed for walking. The large weighted base curves like a bowl, allowing players to move in any direction.
Users strap themselves into a moving unit with full 360 degrees of motion. You can lean, crouch walk, and dodge incoming fire in relative safety, secured by a belt around your waist with some back padding to keep your steady. You can move backward, too, thanks to the weighted base and large harness that hold your body in place by the waist. As the user glides his or her feet across the face of the device, those motions translate to locomotion in VR.
The result is a fully fluid form of locomotion.
The catch? It’s on par with the costs of an exercise bike. Still, the push for consumer VR with that Ready Player One feel is feeling more like a reality looking at this device.
Who is Jake Phillips?
Jake traveled to China on business and saw a local arcade. Like most of us of a certain age, he felt that old feeling and wanted to dip inside to take a look around. What he saw changed his direction entirely.
“I was amazed at what I saw, as I didn’t even realize something like this existed,” Jake recalls the 10-player 5v5 tournament that introduced him to the device. As the action heated up, Jake thought, “This was a true cardio machine. I saw this as a way to reinspire my motivation to exercise.”
Jake contacted the manufacturer of those devices and discovered that they hadn’t come to the US because of distribution issues. He arrived home with a plan and a goal: to bring fitness to the masses. To show that locomotion in VR isn’t a dream.
The 90-day challenge was designed to showcase not just this device but an idea. Can VR replace cardio? Can you get fitter, just gaming?
Let’s dive into the interview and find out.
Welcome back to VRFI! First, remind us of your stated goals and then tell us: how did you do?
My main goal for this challenge was to test the possibility of having fun while losing weight with no real fitness routine in place. I started at 251.8lbs, and my ambitious goal was getting down to 220lbs in 90 days. I exceeded that goal and hit a final weigh-in weight of 211.8lbs, which is exactly 40lbs down!!!
On average, about how much distance did you travel in a session, and about how long did a session last? Were you sticking firmly to a specific time, and timeslot?
I tried hard to stick to 60 minutes per day to keep the results consistent. Occasionally, I was having too much fun and would stay on a little longer to finish the game I was immersed in. On average, I found that I was traveling around 2 miles and burning between 450-500 calories per stream. This, of course, would vary depending on what game I decided to play that day.
How did you track your progress?
Every Sunday, I would do a live update, which consisted of the weigh-in, shirtless before and after, and measurements of my chest, thighs, waist, hips, and average heart rate throughout the week. During the challenge, we decided to use a Fitbit to track the distance traveled, and the calories burned during each stream. I also thought it was essential to involve the community to see my progression live in real-time.
Did you have fun? What was your overall impression of being in VR as a fitness tool? It sounds like your experiment required a fair bit of discipline, but it was also entertaining.
As mentioned previously, the premise of my whole challenge was only to select the games I wanted to play and not the ones I felt I had to for a workout. Doing this ensured that I would look forward to my “workouts” because it was just me having fun. The great thing about doing this in VR is that it brings your mind to another place. This helped trick my body into focusing on the content in my headset rather than paying attention to the physical activity. Though it was demanding at times, the infinite amount of content I had to choose from kept the challenge fresh and exciting.
What is the statistic that most surprised you about this experiment?
To me, the 40lb weight loss far exceeded expectations. However, the statistic that shocked me the most was the drop in my average heart rate. When I started, I realized that my resting heart rate was 78bpm!!! As a former athlete, I was shocked and concerned to have this realization. I found that my resting heart rate every week would drop considerably with the regular 60-minute gaming/workout session. Ultimately, my heart rate dropped back into the low 50s by the end of the challenge.
How did you stay motivated throughout the challenge? Was it pure discipline or something else?
Though I loved the gaming aspect of the challenge, I would often get frustrated at the technical issues that come along with live streaming. Sometimes fixing my audio before a stream could take hours, which is really difficult in my already busy day. The single most thing that kept me motivated to keep moving forward was all the support I received from my viewers. To be honest, I expected viewers to be brutal in the comments, but instead I found way more support than negativity. I was often humbled by the number of people that would private message me and tell me that I’ve inspired them to start their workout routine, whether it was VR fitness or just going for a long walk after dinner. That was quickly the best part of this experience for me!
Let’s talk KAT Walk. Disclaimer: you’re a distributor, but what should potential customers know about this device and how it works?
As a business owner and consumer, I always value transparency when dealing with anyone. Whether I am selling or buying, I find it essential to be genuine and honest. When it comes to the Kat Walk devices, I always like to tell people not to expect a completely natural walking experience. With that being said, I find it’s very similar to that of learning how to swing a golf club properly. It feels awkward at first, but you quickly develop the muscle memory of the motion. Granted, I’ve used the Kat Walk Mini a lot, but to me, the motion feels very smooth and normal while I’m in the headset. Once you are comfortable with the machine, there is nothing more immersive than the ability to use your feet to control you in game character.
The Kat Walk Mini looks like it moves with you. How does that work?
The cool thing about the Kat Walk Mini VR treadmill is that it seamlessly turns with you so that the back harness and support rods are always out of your way. The back harness also has a mechanism that allows you to go straight down to sit, crouch, or lean to the ground to pick up items while still being supported. This ensures the user has the freedom to let loose and be fully engaged while feeling safely strapped in. This is a huge bonus for playing games such as “Creed” or “Blade and Sorcery,” where there is a need to “go crazy” without being concerned with what’s in the real world. To the best of my knowledge, the Kat Walk Mini is the most functional VR treadmill available for purchase in the US.
Did you encounter any issues using the KAT Walk? Was it compatible with the titles you were looking to use it for? Does it require a lot of maintenance before and after a session?
Before becoming a distributor, I fell in love with the Kat Walk’s open-source software. Essentially, you can play any Steam VR game that allows for “free locomotion” and not just teleportation. You will see throughout the challenge I play many different Steam VR titles, many of which that are not on the Kat IO platform. This open-source compatibility ensures for a steady flow of new titles to explore. I did seem to run into occasional issues during the challenge with the live stream and Vive Pro headsets. I attempted to convert my Vive Pro to wireless halfway through the challenge and ran into so many issues that I went back to a hard-wired connection after only one week. Thankfully, none of the issues stemmed from the Kat Walk itself. The only maintenance that was required was occasionally spraying some lubrication on the walking platform.
The KAT Walk is on par with the cost of a bike, so make your case: why KAT Walk and not VIRzoom or some other periphery?
The answer for this is simple, do you want a work out every day? I prefer to play my favorite games while having the added benefit of working up a good sweat. I believe that it is much more sustainable for your average person just to have fun and not feel burdened with the pressure of a rigid routine. With something like the VIRzoom, your content is limited to options that will soon feel monotonous whereas your options for content using the Kat Walk and Steam VR is virtually endless. I firmly believe that the Kat Walk Mini is the crossroads where physical activity and gaming intersect. With our $130/mo payment plan, we have been seeing many more residential users sign up for a “Twisted Workout.”
Now that the challenge is over, what’s next for you and for Twisted Reality?
Since the challenge has ended, there have been some exciting opportunities presented to Twisted Reality. Interest has spiked, and we have been staying busy! We have some significant projects on the horizon, but we cannot disclose any of it at this time. What we can tell you is you will soon be seeing our push for active eSports, or “ActiveSports.”