VR Fitness Insider Podcast – Episode 2: Aaron Stanton

Welcome to a new episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast! Join us as we welcome Aaron Stanton of the VR Institute of Health & Exercise to the show. Learn about what he and his team are doing to further pioneer the VR Fitness Revolution as they partner with Universities to validate the efficacy of using VR & AR technologies to improve the world of sports and fitness.

Welcome to a new episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast!

Join us as we welcome Aaron Stanton of the VR Institute of Health & Exercise to the show. Learn about what he and his team are doing to further pioneer the VR Fitness Revolution as they partner with Universities to validate the efficacy of using VR & AR technologies to improve the world of sports and fitness.

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Episode 2 – Aaron Stanton

[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.

Preston Overdub: Welcome to the VR Fitness Insider podcast. Today we have a special guest, uh one of the OGs of VR fitness, Aaron Stanton of the VR Institute of Health and Exercise . Welcome Aaron. Thanks for being here man!

Aaron Stanton: Thanks for having me!

Preston Lewis: Heck yeah man. And, just to kick it off, why don’t tell the audience who you are and a little bit about your background.

Aaron Stanton: Yeah, sure. So I’m an entrepreneur, also I’m the Director of what’s called the VR Institute of Health and Exercise working in conjunction with San Francisco State University, the kinesiology labs there.

And, [00:01:00] my parents made a mistake of telling me when I was a kid that you should do what you love. Philosophy was, you do what love. Because if you love it, you’ll do lots of it. And because you do lots of it, you’ll get good at it. And because you’re good at it, somebody will eventually pay you for it.

And they made the mistake of telling me that when the two things I loved more than anything in life was video games and books . And so my career has been video games and books, in one way or another. So, founded a company a while back, uh that was acquired by Apple. Worked in the books publishing industry for quite a while, and then, several years ago began becoming very, very interested in, VR and exercise.

So, created the VR Health Institute for the purpose of, bringing people into the lab and having them play different virtual reality games while connected to metabolic equipment so we can see exactly how much calorie energy burn they’re getting while playing the average game.

Ryan DeLuca: So awesome.

Preston Lewis: So cool.

Ryan DeLuca: Yeah. It’s one of the we constantly hear about you and the VR Health Institute on CNN and all these major publications, if we’re talking about VR and fitness, they’re gonna talk about you guys. But maybe take a step back. You mentioned getting into VR, like what was it [00:02:00] about VR? Like when did you get into VR? Why were you interested in it?

Aaron Stanton: I’ve, I’ve been interested in VR since the very, very first kind of early days of VR. And then I got re interested of course, during the Kickstarter with Oculus.

At that time, I was still working my garage, my first startup, and so it was kinda, it was an interesting thing from a distance. And then after my career progressed a little bit, kinda became a professional enthusiast, if there was a VR related thing, it’s probably been my garage at some point or another.

First system I ever got was a Vive and it was the first time they had controllers for VR units. And I was playing a game, called AudioShield. And, AudioShield is a highly active game where music plays and you have to use these shields to step left and right to block things.

And Steam at some point in time, told me I’d been playing AudioShield for, for more than a hundred hours. And , I remember seeing that number thinking kind of two things. Like one is it was the realization that, If this were exercise, and it feels like I’m doing exercise, I’m breathing heavy, I’m sweating.

Then, the VR equipment’s by far the best exercise equipment I’ve ever owned because I’d owned elliptical and a treadmill, and a rowing machine. I had never [00:03:00] spent a hundred hours on them combined at all, close to it even. And the second thing that I realized, which was, um, I think more important in a way, is that.

So I was dating at the time. I remember like thinking to myself, if I was like going on a first date with somebody, I’d probably not lead the conversation by being like, guess what I’ve been doing with the last hundred hours of my adult life was playing VR, right? And it was weird because, I would not have been necessarily afraid to tell somebody that had spent a hundred hours playing basketball or baseball.

But we had this cultural expectation that, you know, spending a hundred hours in a video game is a waste of your life. It’s a waste of your time. And so I realized that there was this interesting contradiction that, the most effective exercise equipment I’d ever owned was the one that was most embarrassed to admit I used.

Because, we’ve spent 20 or 30 years teaching everybody that video games are the enemy of a healthy lifestyle. That’s too bad. And so, I don’t remember who I was writing for at the time, but I wrote an article for like Upload VR or somebody like this where I just bought a heart [00:04:00] rate monitor and I just wrote the average heart rate of the top five or six games that I was playing.

And the response to it was really, really interesting. About 70% of people have read it and were like, that’s kind of cool, you know? That’s neat. And then 30% I would say were openly hostile. I don’t remember all of them. Yeah. There’s like this very strong gate keeping, there are certainly people who feel like you have to work hard and earn your physical health.

No pain, no gain. If you are able to have the health benefits of exercise, but actually going through the suffering of exercise, then that’s bad. Like you haven’t earned it. There is a little bit of a, a gate keeping element there where people want you to do it a certain way.

For the 80% of people who don’t get enough exercise in their life, that’s not helpful for them. I don’t remember the exact comments, but, I remember one in particular was saying saying

“lazy ass gamer, get off the couch, go outside, get a girlfriend, play a sport and be happy for the first time in your life.”

Something like that. Close to it. Yeah. And then the second one, and then there are these other kind of categories of comments that are coming in too, which is, um, nicer, but, but they’d be like, you’re normally [00:05:00] in a response to one of those, or somebody would say, no, no, no wait. Nobody’s claiming that you’re gonna lose a lot of weight playing VR.

But for those people who are already stationary. And not getting a lot of exercise it’s better than nothing. So, you know, good for him, good for that guy, and I like that person better. But, um, but he is also equally wrong. There is absolutely no reason from the data we’ve seen that exercise in VR is somehow less than traditional exercises.

It’s always kinda amazed me, you watch somebody do a hundred squats without VR on, nobody disagrees it is exercise. You put a VR unit, have ’em do those same hundred squats. People are like, well, it’s not really intense enough.

And, at that point, I became interested in how exactly, you scientifically go about demonstrating the energy cost of a new or novel exercise and came across, what’s called indirect calorimeter.

You guys know this, but , when you burn a calorie of energy in your body, you’re spending it on consuming oxygen and breaking it into co2 and so if you measure, the ratio of oxygen to CO2, on an inhaled breath,

and then you breathe [00:06:00] out again and you measure what the ratio shift has been,

you can calculate indirectly how many calories your body has had to spend to break the things apart.

And it’s as about as, as close as we have to a reliable, scalable way of getting a calorie cost or energy guess. Right.

Ryan DeLuca: It’s interesting. People don’t realize like, like where does the fat go when you burn it off? You breathe it out.

Aaron Stanton: You’re breathing it out. Right? But these machines, these indirect calorimeters, normally owned by research institutions, like universities because, they can range in cost, but somewhere in the average, around a hundred thousand dollars. And so, I connected with the chair of the kinesiology department at

San Francisco State University and where we found a lot of kindred spirits.

And basically we talked and I said, listen I think there’s an entirely new generation, of exercise coming just, and nobody’s really paying attention to it. Nobody’s studying it yet.

So we created what we call the, uh, VR Health Rating System, where we would bring in people to play games,

measure connected to the Metabo equipment, and we would rate the games based on their average,[00:07:00] energy costs. So is this, is this game a resting equivalent? Is it a walking equivalent or elliptical equivalent? You know, nobody has troubles looking at elliptical and saying this is an exercise machine.

There are games that are absolutely better than ellipticals in terms of exercise. But people will challenge it, they’ll not believe it.

Ryan DeLuca: But such a smart way to do it is compared to other exercise, cuz you could say, here’s how many, you know, METS on the METS scale.

Or you could say just how many calories, but people don’t really know like what’s an elliptical burn calories and, and how much effort that is. So when you put it like this game is like fast walking or this game is like sprinting, you were equivalating it, to, the the exercise that people are familiar with. We get the same kind of comments like on Reddit, you know, forums and it’s, you’re exactly right. I mean, gate keeping is such a great way to put it for the, the fitness people.

All the time. It would be people saying like, like, you know, anytime there’s any kind of new way to work out, it’d be like, why don’t you just go squat,

get chalk on your hands. Mm-hmm. , what’s the big deal? Lol. And it’s like, you know, hey, that’s great. It works for you. Even though most of those people, when you actually mean in real life, are usually [00:08:00] off their plan and not as hardcore disciplined as they like to think they are, you know?

But there would be that aspect of it. Like there has to be this old school way. We, we grew up with, you know,

Arnold and Lou Ferrigno. Or the, the how you do sports and exercise and, uh, people just couldn’t grasp it. And uh, so it’s very interesting. You saw the same thing and, and then you did something about it.

Aaron Stanton: If you think about like, uh, performance enhancement, like if you look at like what the cutting edge of research in kinesiology is, it’s like how do you increase the speed of a muscle healing after it has been pulled? How do you increase that extra 1%, 3%, increase the speed and running and stuff like this?

And it’s, it’s very, very fine focused in that upper percentage of, of, of performance extraction. And that is a field where yes, discipline is like what you need in order to be like, those are very competitive people. The problem with that is that again, it not doesn’t work for the majority of people, 70 or 80% of people who are not getting enough exercise, that’s not for them.

The reason I’m here is cause I’m a horrible exerciser, I’m bad at it. I don’t stick with it. So, yeah, new [00:09:00] exercise coming along that can be effective in compliance and effect. And, does it actually consume energy and give you exercise when you do it?

And is it something you will do a lot of? Those are the two ways we have historically measured the success of exercise in kinesiology and VR, AR these sort of things coming down the line, I think the ability to completely blow out of water. Anything that we’ve seen.

Ryan DeLuca: All right. End of podcast. I think that was it. No, that’s awesome. I guess, uh, few questions. Um, at the Institute. Um, so we kind of learned a bit about the, the reason behind it, the type of testing that you did and, and kind of the, the high level findings. But tell us a bit more about the findings. Like what range of exercise did you find?

And, not only the physiological, but you know, the psychological, even if some of that is, is anecdotal, like what, what were the findings that either surprised you or that was common or, or that you guys found?

Aaron Stanton: There’s, there’s only one thing that surprised me, but I’ll come to that one in a second because everything else actually aligned up with, to me, what is common sense, which is, yeah, doing the hundred squats with [00:10:00] VR on is like doing the hundred squats without the VR on, but with a slightly less heavy head

So for the range, we’ve found that there’s VR games that kind of, support this whole spectrum of, of the type of exercise you need to get. Right. So first off, I’ll, I’ll say this, that, um, with the exception of, of say

Black Box, the vast majority of our work is focused on cardiovascular energy cost, right? Because, when I say that VR can be as good as equipment in the gym, like elliptical and stuff like this, that’s not accounting for things like muscle activation or like resistance training and stuff like that.

There’s a whole category of development that gets to, we get to look forward to building out in VR there. What we measure though is primarily like if you run a mile on this thing, will it be the same as playing a game for equivalent amount of time in that thing? So when you look at it from the cardiovascular one side, you mentioned the MET scale earlier for anybody who doesn’t know what that is, so a metabolic equivalent of task is , a common way to measure, energy consumption of various different tasks abstracting from things like body weight , there’s public databases around the world of like MET score databases of every activity you [00:11:00] can possibly imagine.

Measured, by MET and MET is a, is a multiplier of base metabolic rate. So resting, sitting down is one MET, and then standing is on average around two METs, which is two times resting, three METs is three times resting and so forth.

Ryan DeLuca: What’s funny, in that scale you can go and see things from you know, playing violin or like, they’ll even be like kissing, kissing vigourously.

Aaron Stanton: Like we actually, um, worked with a, a team that was, uh, a VR company and I was talking to them about this and we were like, yeah, so your game falls here.

I don’t remember what the MET score was, but it was higher than, the MET score for sex, so we joked that the press headline should be, it’s better than sex … at exercise

Preston Lewis: Um, just to kind of step back a second, doing all this has been kind of data heavy, right? And, and potentially inaccessible, I mean, there’s , the scale we just talked about, but like you go through meta analyses and it’s pretty dry and things like that. One of the things, I like that you guys did, I thought was one of the [00:12:00] coolest things was around adoption. Cause in this industry, one of the hardest things is get people to believe in it and to see that it’s a legit form of exercise, which you guys are doing.

But not only have you guys been doing, the analysis of that, what I really liked was the actual infographics and things that you came up with,

that were actually brandable, pieces and parts. I think you, you came up with those pretty early on. But that we saw at VRFitnessInsider.com, we saw games starting to adopt those infographics of the equivalent of walking equivalent of this and that,

which I thought was super powerful, for the industry because, It was a great way to just take a baby step, into kind of getting the genie outta the bottle with VR Fitness.

Ryan DeLuca: Yeah. That’s such, such a true point and I almost think that once the findings came out that you guys published, that was the end of those Reddit comments. Like, it literally was like the next day it, those kind of things went away.

But I mean, there could be different type of things like, oh, well you also have to care about diet. But, you guys really did it. And, I wanted to know, what you were gonna say, from the other findings that [00:13:00] maybe psychological findings are also the surprise, the thing that surprised you before you go to this.

Aaron Stanton: Yeah. And, and I also kind of wanna finish the what, so I was talking about the MET score. The reason I was defining that was cuz I think it’s important. If we can get one thing across to people, it’s that VR and AR is not a secondary form of exercise that you do.

Preston Lewis: Mm-hmm.

Aaron Stanton: when you can’t do real exercise, like even today, I catch myself where like I’ll do something for 45 minutes that I know is good exercise.

Um, and then, and then afterwards feel like I, I didn’t really do, uh, then I’m really just, I’m really not putting in the same work that somebody else is doing. Even though I know if I, if I’d run on an elliptical, I would’ve gotten a worse exercise that I did, but I didn’t feel the pain of it. And so if, if there’s kind of key things that come across one of them is that, that there’s a really intense exercise out there from the, and so on the MET score, when we measure a game for, its when we rate a game, we read it, rate it mostly on its MET score.

Is its MET score the equivalent of running or, know, elliptical or whatever. So a, a normal human, tops out with activities around 10, [00:14:00] 11, 12 METS. that’s about the upper range of what the average person can do for a extended period of time. If you’re an athlete, you can give quite a bit higher than that, but for, for the rest of us, and, we’ve definitely benchmark games in the 11, 12 METS range.

Which for comparison, by the way, like Thrill of The Fight, for example, is a boxing game. It’s consistently been one of the highest rated games in our system, Supernatural recently beat it for the first time in one variable. it. It beat it in average, overall average MET score, but it still lost out to it in peak sustained MET score.

So Thrill of the Fight had moments that were higher intensity than Supernatural, but Supernatural over a 30 minute period had a higher sustained. To put that in equivalent, like Thrill of the Fight falls in, in the range of uphill competitive mountain biking like the Tour de France. So if you get like the higher end range of these VR games and you play it for 30 minutes, you are, are basically, um, in terms of your cardiovascular stress you are biking in the Tour de France . Um,

Preston Lewis: That’s so crazy.

Aaron Stanton: Yeah. So really, really intense. and the key [00:15:00] to that though, and here’s the part that’s again, seems to, makes a lot of sense to me, but I think a lot of people find surprising. Is that people don’t realize it. You don’t feel it. Um, not in the same way.

So one of the very first studies done by a graduate student named Dolsi, um, she brought in 40 subjects, 20 male, 20 female. Uh, these are mostly kinesiology students. These are healthy people. These are people that spend their lives studying health and physical fitness. Um, and the first part of the study is they came in and we, we ran through what’s called a VO2max test.

Which again, for anybody listening who might not know what that is, is the closest I can think of to a physical torture that they allow us to do in the lab. You, um, you, you, you know, if you’re, you put somebody on treadmill in this particular case, and then you hook ’em to the indirect, the metabolic carts.

And then they, you start running the treadmill very, very slowly and you hook a harness onto them to a thing overhead so that they fall down. They, they don’t hurt themselves. And then you start to ask them on saying on the Borg scale, which is how much exertion do you feel you’re doing? And, and then every time you ask them, you increase, the speed or increase the elevation [00:16:00] on, the treadmill.

And you just keep doing that. And the Borg scale is the last number on the Borg scale is the point of collapse. When you say that you’re at that last number, number, that means that you are moments away from collapse. You want them to stop immediately because you are going to just melt into the ground, and that is the way the test ends.

The test continues until you reach that point. That’s the point of the VO2max test. And so, we did this right and you measure heart rate and all that sort of stuff. And so the, the idea is to get a benchmark. So when this person is at this heart rate and doing this level of exercise, how do they perceive it on the Borg scale?

Is it a lot of exercise is it little exercise? So then had to come back, you know, a few days later for the second part of it where they played through three different VR games, and almost every single person in the study at some point in time hit their physical max. You know, so like the point with their body was consuming oxygen.

Faster than they could be supplied. Um, and that they were moments from collapse, it, but every single person hit that. And then, but not a single person rated it as being higher than a moderate level of exercise when off down on the Borg scale, right?

So we know that what they [00:17:00] consider to be collapse when they didn’t have the VR unit, that same level of energy expenditure when playing VR was not even noticeable to them. In fact, I remember the, one of the guys, he did this thing and we were kind of cleaning up afterwards and asked him what he was gonna be doing for the rest of the day.

He was like, well, I haven’t got my exercise routine in yet. So they run over the gym. It’s like, like what? You just did . We, we know for a fact that you just did a lot of exercise, like, um, But yeah, and this is one of the things that we’re fighting because the good part about VR is that when you’re exercising in it, you don’t feel or experience the pain or discomfort of exercise.

And that’s great. That’s one of our upsides. The downside is, is then people get out of it and it’s like, that wasn’t really exercise, was it? And so there’s this cognitive dissonance between yes, it is exercise. We’re doing something healthy for yourself. And just because you don’t suffer from it does not mean it’s not good.

Ryan DeLuca: I think you almost can’t describe better the problem that we have and with VR Fitness, trying to, to make it a bigger deal. [00:18:00] It’s exactly that is people will do this hardware workout and think, oh, either A, just mentally, it’s not the type of workout I notice I’m supposed to do.

Like over there with those weights, like with Black Box, we do resistance training. It’s super heavy. We always say it’s like CrossFit inside a video game, and people still in their minds are like, oh, you have to bring my little nine year old to try it out. It’s like, no, you know, or people will try it.

They’ll kill themselves. But then they’ll say, well, it’s not really a gym replacement, and you have to convince ’em. And that’s, we spent a lot of time trying to do that, but yeah you nailed

Preston Overdub: it’s, I think that’s perfect segue, into kinda our next question was, you know, why are VR workouts better for some people than traditional workouts?

So like, what are the, and you, and you touched on some points, but maybe we can go a little bit deeper on just kinda the, the high level you kind of . Mentioned.

You know, pain perception is reduced. You kind of mentioned time dilation, but love to kind of hear, what your thoughts are on those aspects.

Aaron Stanton: Time dilation’s a really interesting one because, yes, not only do you perceive pain less, but you perceive, duration of discomfort as being shorter. Why, is VR better than traditional exercise? So I have come to start trying to eliminate, the [00:19:00] vocabulary of exercise from my life.

Right now we’re working on a project that we’re referring to as, uh, “how fit do you get?” And what it is, is the realization that certain games that, especially this case, the one we’re using is until you fall, which is a, rogue light game.

You start at the beginning and play know, every single time you start the game, you play as far as you can, and then you start again at the beginning. And we realized that that’s actually very similar to how a sport works, right? If you show up for a baseball game, you, you play from the beginning of that game, and then it ends the next game you show up to, you start at the beginning again.

And so we’re like, well, that means in, in a way like, going to practice at a baseball game is kind of like taking a run at beating the main boss in Until You Fall. And so, know, we’ve done a lot of work on looking exercise, hour of exercise, A equals VR, game A or B, whatever. So we wanna look at like, seasons, right?

Could, beating Until You Fall, which, can take lots of hours. I’ve been participating in this study and I’m, I think I’m at run 85 or something like this. I’ve been dying over and over again against the last boss and the hardest difficulty of this game. So I’ve been doing this for a few months,[00:20:00] and the question is, if I’ve been going to a Zumba class for that same period of time, how, what would the physical fitness changes be like?

And can I say that beating Until You Fall, not paying attention to exercise at all. Just the process of starting from easy and the level of physical fitness you have to attain in order to beat the very last guy in Until You Fall. that? Is that comparable to two months of Zumba?

And as part of that, I’m, I’m this new kick now where I’m like, I’m just, just, I don’t tell people. I have to exercise today. What I, what I’m gonna try to do is I’m gonna set out to try to beat Until You Fall today. I’m gonna take a run at the boss.

I also, I talk about this concept of pushless exercise. So, as part of kinda the fun side of this experiment. Beforehand, I went and tried to run three kilometers and time myself. And two things came from it. One is that, I can’t remember exactly how long it took me, but let’s say it took me somewhere like 35 to 45 minutes or so to run this and record it and stuff like that.

And, and I realized that an average run Until You Fall is about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on how far you get through the game. So I, I do that on a regular basis. And the realization of [00:21:00] how much more I hated every single second of running around that Lake, right? I mean, I, I play that game the same amount of time over and over and over again, and I’ve never once disliked it a 10th of how much I was very much aware of how much I didn’t wanna be running around that lake.

So awareness, we, we refer to that as also the painless minute of exercise, right? That there, there’s exercise that, you know, a running on treadmill. By itself has some percentage of the minutes you’re on that treadmill that you are, it’s painless and you are not thinking about the discomfort of the exercise.

So the things you don’t like about the exercise, and then a treadmill with a Game of Thrones episode probably has a higher percentage of minutes that are painless. And I believe that VR and AR has the potential of being the highest level of painless minutes of any form of exercise ever developed.

And so the, the pushless comment is you know, I was running around the lake. You’re like, okay, I wanna stop running, but I can’t stop until I, I pass that tree way down there, right that tree, and then run to that tree, and then I can let myself rest. And then, [00:22:00] and then you, you like, okay, no, just kidding.

That’s the next tree over. And so you, you come for these mechanisms to force yourself to overcome the thing you don’t, you don’t really wanna do, but you feel like you have to Right. Break it into pieces. Yeah. And that’s pushing Right. You’re pushing yourself. And, and when we got, when I get done with the “how fit do you get” challenge. What I wanna be able to say is it was a pushless exercise. Whatever exercise I did or didn’t do, I only did the things I wanted to do. I didn’t force myself to play one more level because I wanted to see how far, like, push me, get exercise out of it. I, I, if I, if I wanted to take another run at the boss because I really close to being that run, I wanted to take another run right then I could, but if I didn’t want. I didn’t. If I died early and only got 20 minutes of exercise that day, I quit. Right. Um, I normally try to get one, you know, three to four runs at beating Until You Fall in week. And to actually go back to the question, right, like what is it about VR exercise and, and AR exercise that’s really interesting, compared to traditional ones is that none of what I just described, do I feel fit any of that

Like , like if you took away [00:23:00] the exercise benefits of running on treadmill, nobody would run on a treadmill. Yeah. Out by Lake. Yeah, sure. There might be some people out there running by around the lake. Right. But, but the vast majority of what we think of as setting out to get exercises, activities that you would not do without the exercise component, with the exception of like, say sports and stuff like this.

So yeah, when I, when talk about like VR and exercise, I think about it from the standpoint. On one level, I think about it from the standpoint of. Of like this, this painless exercise, this pushless exercise. And whether or not we can get away from, this mentality that exercise, something you have to seek out, right?

It’s something that you should be getting from the activities you enjoy.

Ryan DeLuca: Necessary evil.

Aaron Stanton: Yeah. So that’s the small answer, but there’s a bigger answer about why you want .

Preston Lewis: No, I think, I think that’s great. The other thing that dovetails into that is, you kind of mentioned a few of them, but this show is for the creators as well, right? So, what kind of tips do you have, for the audience, for what they should do or they should look at in, creating [00:24:00] a good VR fitness title? And then on the other side of the coin, what would you say to avoid we’re kind of running a little bit out of time, so just, you know, big buckets

Aaron Stanton: So I will say before we move past the other subject is that, there’s three reasons that people should be interested in VR and exercise the first of them, which is that it’s fun exercise, but that’s what everybody else is just starting to discover right now is actually two other things in VR and exercise.

That I think are what make it inevitable to all exercise. Fun exercise. That’s cool. Right? Um, but fun exercise has been around for a while. Like I said, people have played sports. Um, people have, everybody’s experienced that, that playing, playing a game when they’re a kid, they wake up the next morning and they feel really sore and they didn’t realize how much strain they’re putting on their body and because they were engaged in those stuff like that same mechanism in VR is the same thing that that works back then too.

Right. So, That’s great fun exercise is good. Uh, the pain reduction also beneficial, right? But there’s two things that I think make VR an exercise inevitable to the future of all exercise. And I, and I love that word, inevitable, right? The very first day. [00:25:00] That electricity caused, some sort of movement.

It’s impact on humanity was inevitable, right? It didn’t know exactly what the form or the timing or whatever is, but there was no way that we were going to be able to pass up the ability to have electricity do things for us, right? Um, and so I don’t use that word, lightly. So there’s two things.

One is that VR is the first generation of exercise equipment that is refreshable, right? So if I tell somebody that exercise equipment has a decay rate, like if you buy elliptical or treadmill and you bring it home, you’ll use a lot the first week and you’ll use it, use it a little less the second week, and you use it a little less than third week, right?

And eventually, you haven’t used it for a long time, and I’ve tracked this in myself. My three pieces of exercise equipment, averaged around 12 to 15 weeks after purchase to the point I’m never using again. Again, and nobody’s surprised by that. But what a lot of times people forget is that everything has a decay rate.

So when I bought my PS4 years ago, I played the launch titles that came out a lot, right? I played Destiny with, and I played until I beat it. 60, 70 hours. And then I [00:26:00] have not played a launch title on my PS4 for a very long time. I moved on to Destiny two, and once the PS five has been out for a long time, the same thing will happen with it.

And so the idea that you can create one game that’s gonna just, dominate all of of VR exercise for all time, I think is, is very, very difficult even without the exercise component of it. You know, the closest I can think of is World of Warcraft and they’ve continuously released updates and stuff like this, right?

Preston Lewis: Mm-hmm

Aaron Stanton: I also tracked my VR exercise over a two year period and, and I realized that if you look at it, it’s actually still a downhill slope. It’s a much slower downhill slope than my traditional exercise, but it basically went like this. But what happens? You go and they hit the spike and you go down a little bit and a spike and then go down again, right?

And so I went back to my STEAM history and I looked at my purchase history and overlaid the purchase of games on top of that exercise graph. And it was really, really clear. 100% of the returns to exercise came from a game purchase. It was buying something new, gosh happened to be exercise.

And that’s where the [00:27:00] longevity comes So VR being the first generation of exercise equipment where you can change it off as you go, you can refresh it with new content and change the experience entirely. I think it’s really, really important, Um, so from a game, from developer standpoint, your other question, I, I think looking for ways that you can, you can provide a diversity of experience to people I think is really, really important.

It’s one of the defining things. The second and or third, I guess, and most important, uh, thing about VR that makes it inevitable, I think is what I refer to as responsive exercise. A treadmill has been capable , of understanding that you are, you know, heart rate is 120 beats per minute, and it may be capable of understanding that you’re trying to get to 140 beats per minute.

But like, what can it do Right? Can increase the elevation a little bit, but not it stills just a treadmill. Right? But a game, knowing that you’re at 120 beats per minute and trying to get the hundred 140 beats per minute can change everything, right. Monsters can become more aggressive. You can load into a new level with more guys.

During rest periods on a hit routine, right, they can back off. You can you find the shop during the time you need your heart rate to come down [00:28:00] and buying your new weapons and stuff like this. And that’s, and it’s really cool. So a game, being able to know your heart rate, know your biometrics, know your targets, and dynamically adjust the gameplay as you go to walk you through and optimize exercise, exercise routine for you, designed to get the maximum, know, energy out of you will make AI not only the most interesting, the highest level of painless minutes, but also the most effective in sense of like optimized. But here’s the last part that I think is really, really important.

So HIIT exercise, you have, a period of high intensity followed by rest, followed by high intensity, followed by rest. And HIIT is by far right now the most popular form of exercise that people do in the world. Um, but if you asked people.

Does the average person quit exercise at the peak? Like they get there and they’re like, I just can’t do this anymore, and they, yeah. Throw away their controllers or whatnot. Or do they quit at the trough? They get done with an intense set and they’re like, ah, I don’t think I can do another one. I’m just gonna not start, right?

Mm-hmm. , we have no data as far as I know about this. I think most trainers would guess the trough. Right. But we don’t know. And [00:29:00] probably it’s distribution. Some people are probably rage quitting and some people are, are getting in the trough and they’re, they’re quitting 10 minutes early because they can’t make it through another 15 minute cycle.

Um, we don’t know. Right. So VR has a very interesting thing about it, which is, not only am I adjusting the difficulty and stuff like that to keep you engaged in the game and get you , your target heart rate zones properly, but if I know that you have a 75% chance of quitting early, if you die three times in a row, that you’ve died twice, right?

My job as the AI is to keep you at the up range of what you can do, but make sure you don’t die a third time , right? Mm-hmm. , or if I know that, Never quit in the middle of a boss battle, right? You always see that through. Can I start you on a five minute boss battle? Two minutes and 30 seconds before we think you’re most likely to give up early.

Can we get you to do an extra five, six, 10% of not only optimized exercise, but longer exercise in a way that you actually enjoy? and, and those things together, like [00:30:00] those two are what make VR what we’re learning in vr inevitable for all future exercise. And in five years, 10 years, you’re not gonna walk into a gym that does not have an awareness of you that, that we are learning about right now in VR.

Ryan DeLuca: So true. It’s like, you know, there’s nothing that’s nothing else like that out there, in traditional exercise and sports that you’re right. It just, I like that word inevitable. I’m gonna, I’m gonna be using that

Aaron Stanton: Stolen from, by the way. To get it proper, homage or whatever the proper term is, from I think Infinity Wars. Thanos or whatever. I am inevitable. I do not. That’s why he’s my favorite villain. . There you go. That’s awesome. Snaps his fingers.

Preston Lewis: Nice man. That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean we could, it sounds like we go all day on just super fascinating stuff to hear your perspective. Cause it’s stuff that we’ve also talked about at Black Box, like we have aspects of that as well, right?

Like where we, we designed the resistance machine to be, to put the user certain range with a certain volume to create muscle mass and maximize their cardiovascular health and [00:31:00] things like that. So it is true and it is really cool to see, users’ eyes light up when they just experience the magic moments of tiny versions of what you’re talking about.

But yeah, I mean, what you described and kinda laid out there as far as a completely adaptive game that is optimized to keep you in those health and fitness sweet spots. Yeah, I agree. It’s inevitable and I wish it was as easy as that snap in the fingers .

Aaron Stanton: Yeah. Well, you know, if you could just do that, you could just wish everybody was perpetually healthy and fit

Preston Lewis: Yeah, that’s true, haha!

Ryan DeLuca: Man, so many great notes. I think, like to end a little bit on, what’s next for you? What’s next for the VR Institute and, well let’s start with that and then we’ll go into what you think is next for VR Fitness in general. So what’s next for you?

Aaron Stanton: Sure. What’s next for us is the thing that I think is also next for VR Fitness in general too. In the sense of like, what is interesting for one, I think is interesting for the other, and it goes along the lines of what I just said, right? So we like, as well as, kind of rebooting our rating [00:32:00] systems, it was been shut down for Covid because the labs at the universities have all been locked down for two years.

And so we’re getting the process of getting those things running again But, our focus on the responsive exercise, component of it. We didn’t touch on it much. But we mentioned this stuff about time dilation and understanding the role of things like audio and game rewards and stuff like that, and people’s duration of exercise.

And understanding how effectively you can change dynamically gameplay. So what I was gonna say earlier is that, an

AI that walks you through the experience is great. An AI, that can plug into the backend of multiple experiences so that your entire platform of VR becomes an AI powered system is a much more interesting one. So the exploration we’re doing at the VR Health Institute really is around that sort of stuff. Trying to build out prototypes to see how dynamic exercise and we’ll refer to as motivational AI

that has a sole purpose of trying make it easier for you to accomplish the things that you know you want to do, have picked for yourself to do, but but hate doing or just aren’t getting around to, right.[00:33:00]

So yeah, that’s where we’re focused.

Ryan DeLuca: Funny. They say, AGI is eventually gonna kill us all, but I guess before that it’s gonna get us all like buff and ripped . Yeah. So it’s .

Aaron Stanton: That’s right. So, okay, here’s, here’s my, my my, maybe this is, we can end on right, but like, my philosophy of what AI in the future’s gonna look like is very, it’s again, sometimes it’s different, some other people, I’m sure, which is that I, you know, have you ever seen the movie Her by chance.

Preston Lewis: Yeah, totally.

Aaron Stanton: Great movie one of my Favorites, right?

Ryan DeLuca: Love it.

Aaron Stanton: But I, I think that’s what people oftentimes think is like the best version of a good AI, which is just the smartest person, you know, working 24 hours a day on your behalf. I think the, the implications of the movie are really interesting across the board. What I think is left out of the movie actually, is that what really powerful AI is going to be is just like every single person becomes the luckiest damn person on the planet.

So, so like for me, the future of AI is, is,

you know, you wake up one day and you’re, you get up and go to work and as you’re leaving your front door, there’s your fresh grocery delivery sitting on the steps

and it’s four eggs and some [00:34:00] bread and whatever. And you don’t know why you have the eggs there.

Cause you never use eggs. And you put in the fridge and you, and you walk, start walking down to work and, and right when it starts to rain,

some guy walks over and hands you an umbrella for no reason, just gonna hands it to you and to use the umbrella and right when you get to work. Some guy comes out and your AI tells you to hand the umbrella to that guy because he’s leaving.

Preston Lewis: Oh, interesting.

Aaron Stanton: and So you don’t have to know where to put your umbrella. And then you go to work and you go throughout the day and you, you come home and about six o’clock your doorbell rings and

it’s your boss, uh and his wife and their car is broken down three blocks away and they, while they’re waiting for a repair guy to arrive, turns out, the wife’s favorite meal, involves making two eggs, and you statistically will mess up at least two eggs every time you cook.

So break and throw away two eggs, and you have two eggs left to make the perfect dish for her, and they have a great time. You show up at the work the next day with information about some

major project coming in and you know, all this sort of stuff because your AI was talking to their AI, their AI knew that they had not taken their car in for repairs.

There was an statistical non-zero chance of [00:35:00] breaking down. So it’s been routing them by places that if they broke down, they are near help and they knew that a high possibility it happened this time, it does. You have the food necessary to be know, delivering, the perfect evening experience for them.

So what I think the future of good AI is, is just like every single time there’s a random way that things can fall, and that right now sometimes connections made and sometimes are not. All those things will just always land correctly. The person who has extra food and is trying to get rid of it, will be able to stick his hand out and the person who needs food will be there to receive it.

And so the inefficiencies and the data elements of life will just kind of smooth out. Like how much of hunger could you get rid of if you could perfectly know how things balance out, right. Um, including things like, by the way, like, the statistical odds and slot machines are and stuff like that,

So, um,

Ryan DeLuca: Or if all of a sudden we notice. There’s a whole bunch of toilet paper supplies building up at the local target.

Like, I might wanna get ready for the next pandemic .

Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Stanton: And I think that, a [00:36:00] lot of that is gonna come down to, the AI stuff is interesting, but I think if you want to, if you want, if that system wants to eliminate humans, all it has to do is run a bunch of ads online, making it uncool to have two kids.

And then wait 300 years.

Preston Lewis: Oh, geez. Yeah. There you go. That’s funny

Ryan DeLuca: well, man, this has been awesome.

Preston Lewis: Thanks so much, Aaron, for joining us and for any of you in the audience. If you’d like to get into contact with Aaron, get involved in what he’s doing, reach out. We’ll put all that info, he’s given us into the show notes. But yeah, can’t thank you enough, amazing insights and, it was a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much.

Aaron Stanton: That was fun.

Ryan DeLuca: I hope everyone in the world sees this cause, so much great information, but just shocking and it’s inevitable and, we’re excited to have you as part of this industry and we can’t wait to see what you do next.

Aaron Stanton: No, likewise, so, right. Thank you guys very much. So much. Bye

Preston Lewis: 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 [00:37:00] 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.