VR Fitness Insider Podcast – Episode 13: Get PIPxr

Welcome to the latest episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast! Today, we're delighted to have Mark Nicoll on the show. He is the CEO of Get PiPxr Ltd, a mixed reality physical therapy game. He is also the editor of Simulation Magazine, a magazine focused on Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies for fitness and wellbeing. Hear about Mark's journey in health and fitness, and his vision for the future of immersive tech to help people increase their health and wellbeing.

Welcome to the latest episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast!

Today, we’re delighted to have Mark Nicoll on the show. He is the CEO of Get PiPxr Ltd, a mixed reality physical therapy game. He is also the editor of Simulation Magazine, a magazine focused on Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies for fitness and wellbeing. Hear about Mark’s journey in health and fitness, and his vision for the future of immersive tech to help people increase their health and wellbeing.

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Episode 13 – Get PIPxr

Preston Lewis: [00:00:00] Welcome to the VR Fitness Insiders podcast, for the creators who are building the future of the VR and AR sports and fitness industries that will revolutionize the way the world will play sports, work out and get fit with your hosts. Preston Lewis and Ryan DeLuca, the founders of Black Box VR, who are building the world’s first full fitness VR gym and bring decades of experience from creating some of the largest fitness technology companies in the world.

They’re bringing together the best and brightest minds to help you and your company succeed in the VR fitness revolution.

All right, so welcome to the VR Fitness Insider podcast. Today we have Mark Nicoll on the show, who is the CEO of Get PIPxr, a mixed reality PT game. And he’s also the editor of Simulation Magazine. Mark, thanks so much for being here.

Mark Nicoll: My pleasure guys. My pleasure. I’d just like to say, uh, thanks for the audition for the Chip and Dales. And I just didn’t think I’d get this chance ever.

Preston Lewis: Well, so maybe to start, could you please just give our audience a quick intro into who you [00:01:00] are and your background?

Mark Nicoll: I live in the UK and I’ve had, kind of, a varied long career in different things. It’s been very episodic based on where I’ve lived and the friends that I’ve been with. I started up with a long career in property, or real estate, as you guys call it. And then moving up to buying and selling land development, that kind of thing. That was good fun. I kind of got bored of it, moved and then got into other things. My thing has always been visual. So, I’ve been a photographer literally all my life. I’m a director of photography as well. I’ve probably created about two and a half thousand fitness videos and cooking videos. And built a film studio to shoot the whole lot in. So I built a massive white cyclorama wall, like Apple uses, and created thousands of these videos for sedentary behavior, exercises behind your desk, two minute short stuff, HIIT workouts, pre and postnatal fitness, things like cable fitness [00:02:00] as well. And also fitness for, kind of, like over sixties as well, which we had a great experience doing. It was absolutely great fun. Had some really good people at the studio with us. I built a massive big kitchen set as well, big lighting grid, five cameras, audio. So it was a bit crazy, but I absolutely loved it. One of the best experiences ever building that. It was incredible. But it was three months where I literally died at the end of it, I mean, it was thirty degrees in that studio. And I was putting up rockwool soundproofing and double skin rockboard and stuff like that on my own. And it was just punishment for something in my previous life, I guess, you know?

I absolutely loved it. And it was on the farm. I mean, that made it even more freaky, you know? With cows and stuff. That was really good fun. I’ve got a lot of friends in the film business, so they all kind of supported that. And used it as well themselves. I kind of set up the studio, because my partner and I, Angela, we set up a company called Keep Fit Eat Fit Wellbeing, which was kind of more [00:03:00] of a retail, over fifty five exercise and nutrition.

So we did lots of recipe creation, lots of very, very gentle fitness. And it did okay. It was our first effort with digital products. And then a few people said, “you really need to kind of expand on this and push it to a B2B audience.” And that’s what we did. Went back to the drawing board, spoke to lots of people, lots of insurers that would resell this product, you know? And one of the things that we found was, there’s a major problem. This was 2019. So there was a major problem with dispersed workforces. So one of the insurance companies we spoke to had five thousand global blue chips. And those blue chip companies had between fifty and two hundred thousand employees. A large proportion of these employees were working out of suitcases in the far East, the Middle East, Russia at the time. So trying to get decent wellbeing services onto a [00:04:00] desktop, so that they could workout, they could do their mindfulness, they could learn about financial wellbeing as well. So we built this platform, which if you looked at it, it was very much like Netflix. It was, kind of, like scrolling channels, endless channels of video content, and a blog for each subject and a podcast.

But we kind of launched a little late. The pandemic hit right at the wrong time. It was just horrific. We had a great product and everyone loved it, but nobody could buy it. It was just heartbreaking for us, really. We’d put all of this time and money and effort, but we did learn a lot. And we learned a lot along the way from a business standpoint about how to pivot, thinking on your feet. People had spent their budget, HR had spent their budget before we launched. We launched on time. That was the irony. But it was six months after the pandemic.

So, I kind of had this idea, knowing all these insurance guys. I approached the [00:05:00] insurer who did life and group risk products. And I just said, “look, I’ve been FCA regulated before, because I was a financial advisor, so I’ve passed master on that. Let’s take this platform and let me give it away, but I’ll sell your group risk insurance. I understand the business inside out.” Right? And, they just thought, “hmm, this sounds interesting.” Within, I guess two weeks, I had fifteen clients lined up to do this. And then the FCA pulled the plug on that type of business, so that was that. It killed us, you know? So we would’ve gone from five, six thousand MRR to probably a million IRR off of the back of that. Because we were gonna actually earn six times the per seat value, giving the product away.

But anyway, you live and learn. But we work with a lot of academics, Essex University and a few other universities. And that was quite interesting. And ironically, we shut the business down January last year, [00:06:00] but we’ve just been accepted on the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology for a white paper study we did. I think it was across six different academics. And it was around the psychology of healthy choices in a mixed workplace environment. So fifty percent of the people work from home, fifty percent of the people work in an office. And this was in kind of the end of ’21, I believe we started this. There was a few people going back to work. There was mostly people working from home. So what we did, is we knew how people wanted to workout.

We kind of done enough research about our target demographic. Your average employee that doesn’t go to the gym, they’ve got no education in fitness and nutrition. We pieced the thesis together between sports science, psychology and a nutritionist. And we set up this, I won’t say multiple choice, but we gave choice, but in a force fed way [00:07:00] to the cohorts of users. So we basically gave them eight two-minute videos a day. And everyone adhered to it, it was incredible. I mean, literally incredible. People did the recipes and stuff. There was about a hundred people on this experiment as it were, and we had so much feedback from people that hadn’t exercised before. And it was all saying the same thing, “we didn’t realize that exercise and nutrition could be so accessible, we didn’t realize how easy it was.” We made it so there was no change of clothes. They could get up from behind their desk, working from home and just do some squats, some calisthenics exercises in a safe environment. Up against the wall using the chair, that kind of, light dips and stuff, you know? Or holding exercises. Everyone was just so enthusiastic. And what we did is we let that run after the experiment [00:08:00] finished. And people were still using it. Whilst we didn’t get to the stage of product market fit, we got product user fit, definitely. Which has to be a thing, because if people were using the product willingly and writing about it. Everyone wrote in, I mean, we’ve got like lists and lists of people in the comments. One woman actually lost eight pounds in a week. So it was brilliant. And last week, obviously, we got the nod from the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology that it’s past master, we had a few amendments go through. Which I’ll share with you guys obviously.

Ryan DeLuca: We’d love to read it. We’ll definitely add it into the show notes and link to it, because sounds very interesting. And just finding things that actually work for that type of group. And the fact that you guys did and got it published is a really big accomplishment.

Mark Nicoll: At the time, I was just starting to think about VR. And I kept thinking to myself, “you know what? This is a perfect product for VR, having all these kind of multifaceted things.”

And I think that’s really what set me down the path of looking at virtual reality. And [00:09:00] then I’ve become obsessed, literally become obsessed with it. And then started using VR and finding what the pinch points were, which is mainly onboarding. It’s just onboarding.

Preston Lewis: What first got you interested in VR and AR technologies? Just in general?

Mark Nicoll: In general? I found that selling employee wellbeing to HR had to be the new next level, shiny-shiny. Most HR were generally only interested in apps, even though in a Work From Home environment it was a complete waste of time. I’m guessing really that whole Work From Home, and being at home, was that big spur with Quest 2 launching, everybody bought it. We were all playing Beat Saber, that kind of thing. And I guess that was the catalyst for me to actually sit up and think, “well, do you know what? This is the future.” And the more I went down the rabbit hole looking at what things could do, I actually learned Unity, not coding. I’m not a coder, right? I actually went into Unity and thought, “right, if I understand [00:10:00] every single component part of Unity and what it does, I’ll be able to build a product.” Because that’s my skill, is building products, right? If I understand what it can do, I can build a product. Because I can just blueprint that down and then share my vision with the team and that’s really how PIPxr is going down that path at the moment. Still early doors, obviously, but uh, yeah.

Ryan DeLuca: You know what, that’s a great segue right into PIPxr. So it’s very exciting that you’re starting a company in VR health and fitness. As well as a digital publication called Simulation Magazine, where you’re writing articles and posts about VR, AR fitness, and the overall world of VR health and fitness. Tell us about how that all came about, and we’d love to know a little bit more about PIPxr and what that’s gonna be.

Mark Nicoll: I guess to understand “why” PIPxr, you gotta go back. And it’s kind of a bit of a personal story and a bit of a personal crusade. When I was probably twenty, I got ill. [00:11:00] And for ten years I got increasingly ill, and increasingly in pain and was constantly being misdiagnosed. Leading up to the fact that one night I was so ill, I literally took so many painkillers that I overdosed. But before I overdosed, I got in my car, I still had the wits about to get in the car, drive two miles to the ER room, you guys call it. I can remember crawling on my hands and knees through the car park, pulling myself up to the front desk and saying, “I’m not well.” And waking up a month later with a crowd around me at the edge of the bed, not expecting me to pull through. So I had Crohn’s disease, something that was tough to diagnose. I’ve got several friends that are in the SIS, or they’ve retired from the SIS, and one of them become a doctor. And he basically said, “what you’ve experienced is similar to a gun shot, it’s that kind of level of pain.” So I’ve always had an interest in pain. So that’s one facet of it. The same thing [00:12:00] repeated ten years later, so I had to go through the whole buildup of pain and everything before I could get an operation and sort it. But I’m fine, I’m absolutely fine now. Through diet and exercise, I’ve managed to self-cure.

Ryan DeLuca: Can’t imagine going through something like that. Especially twenty years old. And having that type of experience at such a young age must have made a huge difference on the way that you have an outlook on what’s important.

Mark Nicoll: Yeah, you actually become a prisoner of your pain. Because of the sickness and the pain, you realize that you are trapped around the house or around whatever. You can’t go far, you can’t get on a plane. It’s just not possible, right? So psychologically, it does alter you. I’m fine now. I’m fully rounded, grown ass man. But yeah, having that twice, I mean, I can remember being in hospital and they’d operated on me the second time, ten years later. And of course it hurts like hell. They’ve ripped your stomach open. It’s, like, horrible. And I can remember the junior doctor saying, [00:13:00] “it’s not gone that great, we’ve got to reopen, open you up because it’s leaking inside.” And I went, “yeah, no problem.” And they were like, “well, how can you be so chipper about it?” And I went, “well, it is what it is, just get me back in there and get it right.” And funny enough, they opened me up and it’s sealed up. But this time they’d prepped me. But again, another week in hospital. But I can remember thinking to myself, “right, okay, all of the fitness you did as a kid,” I literally got outta bed, because you can’t sleep in hospital. Every twenty minutes I held onto that drip and got outta bed, held my stomach and did knee raises until I couldn’t do anymore. And I managed to get out of hospital way sooner, because I did that. Forget waiting for the people to turn up to help train you. I just got on with it.

Preston Lewis: The interesting thing is, it’s kind of a two sides of the coin, right? In an obvious way that was a very negative experience; there was so much pain and anguish that you experienced. On the other side of the coin, it’s a positive, in the sense that it was such an acute pain that you knew you had to go in and get help, right? You knew you [00:14:00] had to go in and you were literally crawled through the parking lot, right?

Whereas the other thing we always talk about with fitness is just the mental aspect as well. Not as acute, right? It’s maybe like a little bit of a slower buildup to where people know that they’re feeling off mentally, but they don’t realize what’s going on. And a lot of the stuff we’ve looked at, I mean, specifically and VR throws gas on this fire in a good way, but fitness in general reduces depression, as we know, anxiety, stress, improves your cognitive function, quality of sleep. And then, I guess, if you stick with it long enough, your overall self-esteem. You end up transforming your body, and losing weight and putting on muscle and whatever your goal is. But very interesting that, your point, about it was such an acute pain and going in and having to deal with the fitness and realizing that could help you change. I think one note, just for listeners, is the fact that a lot of people have those same things just mentally, where fitness is such a huge, huge, almost panacea for helping people crawl out of these holes. And VR, we think, is one of the most powerful tools ever for that.

Mark Nicoll: It really is powerful. I guess there’s two sides to the coin. There’s the [00:15:00] immersive nature of VR, which is brilliant. It’ll take you anywhere you want to be. At the moment anyway, whatever the dev or company provide. But more of the mixed reality, I think that’s the coolest thing ever, really. A lot of people that might get motion sickness and people that might be a little bit more unsteady on their feet, having full color passthrough is like leather bucket seats. It’s epic.

Ryan DeLuca: So how do you think VR, AR, the passthrough technologies, how can that help people to improve their health and fitness?

Mark Nicoll: I just think it’s more engaging. I just think it’s an experience, isn’t it? If you go to a gym, it’s not an experience. You go in there, you are waiting for somebody to move on from equipment and stuff. The equipment’s dirty. It’s just not great. And there’s always some sort of politics within a gym and dynamic that’s, kind of, toxic. It doesn’t matter what gym you go to, I’ve been to enough to know.

People that may be a little bit [00:16:00] introverted, being able to put that headset on and to actually get a proper full workout. It doesn’t have to be a fitness game either, because you can get workouts in lots of different VR games. There are so many opportunities to create games for VR that can train different pieces of the body. And your mind. That’s one of the biggest things, “and your mind”. There’s no technology like it out there.

Once we start getting into the user-defined generative AI environments within headsets and decent reciprocal speech technologies, which I’ve been really, really looking into with somebody who’s a professor of sentiment analysis in AI and speech. That’s when you can really start garnering some information that helps the actual user, rather than taking it from, “well, we want this data, because we wanna learn something from it.” We want to use the data to actually help the performance of the user. I mean, PIP’s a physiotherapy app with pain distraction, that’s what it [00:17:00] does. But it’s got some secret sauce, which is like nuclear hot sauce that goes with it. But we can do things the other companies aren’t doing, primarily around scale. I’ll kind of leave it at that, but that’s one thing that we’ve solved is the scale issue.

Ryan DeLuca: Such a big deal because it’s hard to scale a therapist, in many different ways, but if you can create this type of a game, basically an experience that then can scale, and like you mentioned, the exciting thing is AI and generative AI and how it can actually change. You set up the parameters, of course, and the technology and what you’re trying to accomplish, and then it can actually change for that individual user. And give you insights that you may not even have thought of, but that is actually helping people on a personalized basis. And that can scale through potentially millions of people.

Mark Nicoll: Yeah. I think generative AI for environments is going to give people a way of experiencing places that they’ve always wanted to visit. And be able to workout on that beach, [00:18:00] or at the top of the Himalayas or whatever. If they can ask for it using, let’s say Siri, because that’s coming very soon, how can you get bored? You know how much it costs to make a fitness game in the environment. It’s just ridiculous. It’s millions, right? So if you can take that part out of it, and launch faster and have these conversational experiences with avatars training you, then that has to be the future.

Ryan DeLuca: It’s funny, because when everybody thinks about it, you’re right. It’s like, “I wanna workout on a beach or the Himalayas.” That’s almost thinking way too small when it comes to that, you know? Like you’re gonna be in this insane, crazy, amazing environment that’s gonna make the real world seem so boring, especially a gym environment.

Preston Lewis: One thing I was gonna say real quick, with the generative AI. You have games like No Man’s Sky, which was before this kind of huge AI thing that we’re seeing now. But it’s been really cool to see some of these videos come out about people that have hooked, I think it was Skyrim, they hooked Skyrim to ChatGPT or something like that. And they’re sitting around the fire with this NPC, and this NPC is riffing on their story and the lore of the family and stuff. And so one thing [00:19:00] that makes me think about is, outside of a traditional gaming environment, like you’re saying in the fitness environment, a lot of times a certain coach can make or break your experience, right?

If you have a drill sergeant style coach, maybe that doesn’t really work well with you. Maybe you want someone softer. Maybe you want someone that sounds a little bit more like your mom, or your best friend or whatever. And so, just as you guys are saying that, it makes me think about how even that style of quote unquote virtual coach could completely be, basically infinitely customizable based on personality types. And it’s just listening to your words, looking at the LLM and then just giving you basically the perfect coach.

Mark Nicoll: One of the things that really interests me, I think it was two or three years ago. Samsung put out, I think it was one of their kind of tech events like Apple put on. And they had a virtual trainer there. It was like a simulation that they were beaming to the audience and stuff. So you could choose your avatar trainer and actually work that way. And that’s great. I just think this is the future, because it doesn’t matter what your [00:20:00] sexuality is, or what your color or creed is. You can choose an environment or a trainer that actually relates to you. And I just think that’s the most wonderful thing ever. I just think that’s epic, because a lot of people get left by the wayside and this kind of solves it. That’s what we’re doing in PIP, digital twins. This is exactly what we’re doing.

Preston Lewis: So who do you think the consumer is for VR, AR health and fitness specifically, now and in the near future? Do you think it is gonna be broad? The whole world? Do you think it’s gonna stay niche down? What’s your opinion there?

Mark Nicoll: I think the current crop of VR fitness enthusiasts are the early adopters. They are the people that bought Quest 2s. Maybe before that they had Oculus 1s. And they kind of saw early doors, and they love being those early adopters. They just tell you, it’s like being vegan, it’s a religion. You can see that as well when you look at Instagram, mad keen on Beat Saber and they put lots of content out. I would say pre-Christmas 2022 is [00:21:00] that demographic. There’s been a lot of reports that people that bought headsets over Christmas haven’t been as engaged with the whole VR experience. And I think, again, that’s widely been factored in as Quest 2 is not as good as some of these other headsets, because it’s at the end of its product life, essentially. It’s very grainy.

So that’s a difficult one, and trying to get these people back in is gonna be Quest 3. I’m guessing it’s gonna be a similar type of experience to Quest Pro, or maybe in certain areas better. I think that’s gonna really help. We are kind of entered at a time where mobile phone use and purchases are on the decline. So there needs to be something else that replaces the mobile phone. I think VR, or AR or whatever glasses is the next realistic stage. Then I just think there’ll be massive adoption. It’s another mobile phone, isn’t it?

We’ll be making calls from our headset. Maybe avatar to avatar in environments that [00:22:00] we’ve kind of speech prompt engineered. I just don’t see an age limit. I think with the mobile phone, when you’ve got an older generation trying to go through these complex buttons and user interfaces and stuff. When your Nan can literally just say, “I just wanna speak to Aunt Maybelline Coventry, but I want to be in New Caledonia on a beach”, and that’ll happen.

Preston Lewis: Just to sum up what I’m hearing you say. You think it’s gonna be ubiquitous in the future, right? Everyone’s basically gonna adopt it. We’re right now, moment in time, just following the traditional adoption curve. You kinda have the innovators, the what is it? Two point five percent of the population. Then it goes to early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards. When we started Black Box VR seven years ago, we were definitely in the innovator category. We were saying the terms “VR fitness”, and people were like, ” what? RV?” We always joke, “RVs? Yeah, I’ve ridden in an RV before.” People had no idea what we talking about. And then, you know, with Quest, well Meta I guess, just dumping a ton of money into it. All these people, really, they’ve continued to invest for the last couple years. The big one coming, as we know, is [00:23:00] Apple. I wouldn’t call them a laggard, obviously they’re an innovator, but like how they launch is kind of a laggard. To where they learn a lot of stuff up front. I think, to your point, they’re gonna drop and then, like you’re saying, it’s still gonna be super expensive. But it feels like we are right at the beginning of the iPhone. And we know how much that changed things. We totally agree, we think VR has an application for pretty much, you know, everyone.

Mark Nicoll: And everything. It really has. I mean, I spoke to a guy two years ago who was actually building enterprise CRMs in VR. And he was actually using that CRM with walkthrough to train people how to use CRM.

Preston Lewis: Interesting. And to close the loop on the VR fitness side. We think that VR fitness, as you’re saying, people that put the headsets down after Christmas. What they’re finding, I think it was McKenzie that did it, they’re finding that VR fitness applications have the most adherence to using a VR headset in general, right? Because it’s one of those daily use things. That’s why we also agree that VR fitness is gonna be, one of the killer apps of…

Mark Nicoll: Definitely, yeah.

Preston Lewis: …the Metaverse, so.

Mark Nicoll: I think one of the biggest issues is Meta itself. They won’t [00:24:00] allow certain apps within their app store or app lab, right? So my product will never go on Meta. Which is a shame, because there’s twenty million users there that can benefit from a product like mine. And we’ve got to the stage with Meta where we are either working out or we’re shooting zombies in the face, and there’s nothing in between. So there is absolutely nothing of utility. A need to bring people back. Fitness is nice, it’s great. We don’t need to do that. We don’t need to shoot zombies in the face or run around in Gorilla Tag, which is a great fitness game by the way.

Preston Lewis: So what do you think makes a great VR, AR health and fitness experience? And a follow on to that, what advice do you have for people that are creating VR, AR health and fitness experiences?

Mark Nicoll: You have to go back to Beat Saber, because it’s taken a quarter of a billion dollars. So there’s no argument that people use that game. If you work the numbers, everyone’s got it. Everyone that’s got a Quest 2’s got it. Yeah? If you look at Beat Saber and you look at my previous product [00:25:00] that I’ve been talking about, Keep Fit Eat Fit, breaking those exercises down into two minute bite size chunks. That is what Beat Saber does. The genius of Beat Saber is nothing’s more than three and a half minutes, four minutes. So it’s breaking that down. It makes it accessible. If you just did that eight times a day, one piece of music through Beat Saber, you are not gonna get diabetes. Unless you are pouring bags of sugar down your face. You know? So Beat Saber’s a great game, because it’s just easy. You go to it and you just know what’s gonna happen, you don’t need instructions, you just press a button, bang, you’re off.

I think we are probably gonna enter a phase where, because all of these games are starting to become a bit similar, we’re gonna start some clever games that make you move without you knowing you’re gonna move. One of the biggest articles that I wrote for Simulation Magazine was using Gorilla Tag as an upper body cardio workout. Now, there’s somebody reading that every day. [00:26:00] Just from organic Google traffic. And it just gets read all the way around. It’s one of those evergreen pieces of content. You get there and you are faced with that wall and you just think, ” what the hell’s going on here?” And then you are kind of paddling like crazy, and all of a sudden you do get over the wall and you’re running around like a complete lunatic in an asylum. And it is an asylum. But you’ve actually broke sweat. You’ve broke sweat, you are getting cardio, but it’s not a fitness game. I can see people morphing these types of games and I see, kind of, that as a future rather than having a trainer sat in front of you, potentially. But that is a clever way of doing VR fitness without doing VR fitness.

Ryan DeLuca: Kind a little personal story. My little dog, who’s right here with me, he had some dental surgery yesterday, so I have to give him some medication. In order to give him the medications, we all know dogs are very good about not taking pills, so you put it inside something yummy that they want. And they’re still really smart, sometimes they still find it and spit it out, which is amazing, you know? But [00:27:00] it’s actually an interesting analogy towards fitness. If you can take the thing you don’t really want, exercise. Wrap it in something that you do want, you know, if you’re gonna get that dose, the whole “spoon full of sugar helps some medicine go down.” Which I think is the British thing, right? So, I’m glad we could bring that in. That’s how we think about it, too. It’s not about like, “take the pill.” It’s more “the pill’s just gonna accidentally get eaten while you’re having something delicious that you want.” And that you want more of, and that you would have anyways if there wasn’t a pill in it. And you’re getting the benefits of both with these exciting, fun VR games.

Mark Nicoll: Yeah, exactly.

So yeah, for people creating VR fitness games. I think friction’s probably one of the biggest killers in everything, isn’t it? Even with software as a service. So literally making it so simple for someone just to put a headset on, load up the app and start immediately without pressing like a billion buttons in a billion settings. Of course, [00:28:00] voice is gonna be one of the key future features of that. But that’s definitely one thing I would say.

The other thing is, let people share their wins. Have some sort of companion mobile phone app where they can look at their stats. But you can give them push notifications as well to remind them to come back. But if you are actually creating, allow them to create screenshots of their workout. What’s actually happening. And let them share directly from the head mounted display in-game to Facebook, to Instagram, to whatever. Let them share it. That’s the way you are gonna get organic adoption. Ironically, one of the go-to-market strategies that I had for PIP was around influencer seeding, and actually setting up a PIP Pros type of scenario. Where you’d set up a Discord channel, you’d get all of your power users from the prototype testing, and you basically let them be the product manager. And that was two year old thinking. And I met up with somebody last week who works for a fitness company, VR, and he told me that [00:29:00] somebody’s just done that. And it’s been incredibly, incredibly powerful. Organic growth, everything you can do for organic growth is key, I guess.

The other thing is, is to make the game inclusive. And what I mean by that is, the gamification’s great, the dashboards are great, the leaderboard s are great, but some people want to be anonymous. Some people don’t want all of that. There’s a lot of people out there that are introverts that don’t want their name there by default. So make sure there’s a toggle off for anonymity. That would be my three main things.

Ryan DeLuca: It’s a lot of just doing the basics, grinding on those important things and really great points about removing friction, making it easy. Interesting thinking about voice, because I think a lot of games don’t use that or it’s just an add-on that doesn’t really do much. Maybe it’s like for a zombie game, type of thing, that might enable something. But removing that friction and making that easy voice was a great way. Letting people share their wins. Getting those stats out there. Just make it shareable, so you can get that organic growth, because that’s really how products really grow these days.

On a totally [00:30:00] different note. Where do you think VR, AR health and fitness is going to go over the next three to five years? So we have long term exciting visions of it being adopted everywhere, but a little bit shorter term next three to five years with the technology that’s coming out with the way that adoption happens, how do you see that rolling out VR, AR health and fitness?

Mark Nicoll: I see the future of VR and AR fitness, much like light sport. You must be familiar with light sport. But that kind of experience I just see as the way forward. You know, we’ve talked about generative AI for environments. But no environment actually making it so you can actually see your surroundings. That’s a big thing. And maybe do some cool down stuff in more of the immersive VR side of things.

I guess that’s where I see things are gonna go. That’s just my opinion, obviously, and I could be horrifically wrong. I just see mixed reality as being like a key. Ever since I saw the demo for the Lynx-R1 headset passing within doors from mixed reality [00:31:00] to fully immersive, I just thought, “wow, that’s just like the shiznits”, you know?

Ryan DeLuca: So exciting to hear about your journey and all the way from crawling into an emergency room at twenty years old to realizing the power of VR, MR fitness and health. And creating a company that’s going to help people. I think probably the most profound thing you said, how interesting it is at Beat Saber. Three minute little chunks. You just do that eight times a day, you’re not gonna get diabetes. And that sounds almost like something too good to be true. You just need a small dose of exercise, repeated daily or most days per week. That’s enough to get massive health benefits for the average person. Like a lot of people think they gotta do hardcore CrossFit and power lifting, or sprinting and marathons.

But literally the science shows if you can do three minute songs on Beat Saber, eight times a day you’re not gonna get diabetes. And that we can actually bring that with VR fitness is so powerful.

Mark Nicoll: Yeah. And I think this is where things [00:32:00] like Horizon Workrooms, that type of environment where you’ve got multi-player, actually having all of your work colleagues at their desk putting that on at the same time. Or even if you are running a distributed team. Having them all having regular breaks through push notifications, you all do it at the same time so you can all have a chat at the same time. Going back to that study we did, a lot of the people paired up to do it, which had a massive impact on engagement. I just see multiplayer as kind of an obvious win for engagement, because you haven’t gotta get in a car and go somewhere, you haven’t got go pay for parking, you haven’t got damaged the environment by burning fossil fuel. Put a headset on and workout. Even if it’s two minutes, it’s saving your life, literally.

Going back to one of the first questions you asked, “why PIPxr?” The other reason, obviously, because I just talked about the pain, which is the pain distraction therapy. I used to have lots of motorbikes; I bought a Ducati 916 and I crashed it. And essentially my knee popped through the back [00:33:00] of a van and I landed on my back on the roof. And so I had this knee pain and it comes back every year in the winter, this knee pain comes back. That’s going back to the pain side, but also the physio. Went to hospital, had my knee looked at and everything. Told to do some exercises, which I did. But I had no kind of feedback and it was just horrific. So, that’s always been in the back of my mind. My nephew was going to do trials for Arsenal Football Club, soccer. Football, right?

Really good. I mean, really good footballer. He popped his knee a week before the trials. So I could see the mental side of not being able to do that. The isolation as well have been on his own, not at school, not with his friends and stuff. And not adhering to the physio exercises that the physiotherapist gave him. So all of these kind of experiences wound into PIPxr. This is why, you know?

Ryan DeLuca: When are we gonna be able to find out [00:34:00] more about PIPxr?

Mark Nicoll: Yeah, towards the end of the year. I’m, kind of, forming a medical board at the moment. I’ve got some good people. I’ve got the CFO of quite a big games company that’s on the board to give me some financial oversight. I’ve got a friend of mine, Danny, who was the MD of an advertising company and did about, I dunno, a billion pounds a year in ads. So he’s plugged right in with the TV networks and stuff. So we can buy advertising cheaply. We’re trying to work out how we can do a branding campaign on TV to push people to, not just VR, but obviously to our products. That’s what we’re working out.

Preston Lewis: You mentioned that it’s not the key strategy trying to be on Quest, because you think it’ll get blocked, but are you trying to do side quests at all?

Mark Nicoll: I’m gonna speak to those guys, but really and truthfully, I’ve come up against so many different roadblocks. Anything to do with Meta. When you start looking at how much headsets cost, closed enterprise headsets, they’re a thousand pounds. And so just to get fifty headsets, you’re talking about[00:35:00] fifty thousand pounds, you know? It doesn’t scale. So Apple have got millions of apps that are health diagnostic, and that’s literally gonna be the savior. I see the utility coming that’s gonna come from Apple, not right away. This first headset is for developers, game studios, people like us that are developing products. So Apple’s my priority, a hundred percent. That’s why I’m not panicking and rushing to do anything. Apple, a hundred percent Apple.

We’ve got enough idea of what that can do already, from Mark Gurman, to build up a picture. So this is what we’re doing. We’re, kind of, building for Apple. Plus, also having headsets that we can actually buy and send out to individuals. But really, the prime goal of this product is to make physiotherapy fun and affordable. We make it cheap enough for people to go and buy VR headset, and to do their physiotherapy for a whole year. Than to claim on their [00:36:00] insurance in the US and have to pay those massive deductibles, or have to wait three months to see a physio in the UK. Physios are on the endangered list, so my product just kills that dead.

Ryan DeLuca: End of 2023. We’ll definitely be watching.

Preston Lewis: Well, thanks so much, Mark, for joining us and sharing your story, insights and passion for creating the future of VR, MR fitness with our audience. For any of you in the audience, if you’d like to get into contact with Mark and the team, I will put all the info in the show notes, so be sure to check those out. Thanks again.

Thanks for listening to the VR Fitness Insider podcast. Do you know of anyone that should be on our show or have feedback? Don’t forget to email us at podcast vr fitness insider.com and follow us at VR Fitness Insider on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also join our Discord channel. Until next time, keep creating and dreaming up the next big thing that will revolutionize the world of fitness.

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Preston Lewis
Preston is the Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer at Black Box VR. Preston is a fitness fanatic, UXUI junkie, product design ninja and product visionary. Preston has provided creative direction and product management to some of the largest brands in the world. His passion for amazing products and solving difficult design problems has earned him numerous awards for projects ranging from traditional print campaigns and packaging design, to chart-topping mobile applications with complex information architectures. After helping grow multi-million dollar brands, Preston decided to leap back into the world of entrepreneurship with a mission to combine his passions for technology, games, fitness, and changing lives, to create the future of fitness; with this vision, Black Box VR was born. When he's not creating new digital products and growing brands, he can be found enjoying paleo treats with his wife that she posts on her blog, AmazingPaleo.com, playing the guitar, singing, working out in VR and dreaming up the next tech innovation.