VR Fitness Insider Podcast – Episode 5: Cix Liv – Part 2

Welcome to a new episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast! Join us as we welcome back Cix Liv of LIV, YUR and REK for Part 2 of our interview with him. He is a digital fitness pioneer using XR 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 back Cix Liv of LIV, YUR and REK for Part 2 of our interview with him. He is a digital fitness pioneer using XR technologies to improve the world of sports and fitness.

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Transcript: 

Episode 5 – Cix Liv – Part 2

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. Welcome to part two of our interview with Cix Liv, who is a VR, AR XR guru and pioneer. In our previous Part 1 Episode with Cix, he explained his background, which really shed light on how creators need to have a passion for the tech and industry they are looking to break into, and also to build quickly and stay close to the voice of the customer to really understand what they’re loving and hating.

Let’s pick up with our last question from the previous podcast where Cix shares insights as to the best way to collect user feedback for a [00:01:00] product.

Do you have any small tips as far as how you go about intelligently collecting that feedback? Is it just straight up scouring the Facebook posts, setting up a Discord? Or do you have specific things that you do, for example create surveys, do focus groups, or how does that process go for you with collecting the feedback?

Cix Liv: If you communicate with a person, like, directly, it’s kind of like the difference between talking to someone through 4Chan and talking to someone through their face. Like face-to-face. Right?

if you’re on 4Chan, you’re gonna shit on everything. It’s almost like straight from brain stem to face, right? Like “this fucking is terrible, that shit blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then when they talk to you, they’re gonna be like, “well, I think you should, you know, improve this” or whatever. Right? So, I think it’s getting both of those perspectives. Right? Because what you miss when you’re speaking to their users are those who didn’t even care enough to talk to you, right? Usually [00:02:00] the users that you’re talking to are somewhere between actual users and pro users. Right?

And you’re usually getting not a lot of the feedback of the people that just turned instantly. Right? They don’t wanna fucking respond to you. They don’t give a shit, they don’t want to tell you what their experience was. So you’re gonna have a blind spot on that category of potential users. Right?

So for those, you’re gonna have to, like, find it anecdotally through, like, Facebook posts or bad reviews, and this is why I would always chase the bad review people. If you’re building that consumer product to understand what’s churning people from the beginning and what improvements can I make for those casual users, and then the pro users, should we cater to them or not? So I think that getting those three perspectives and maybe bucketing people in those three things, is a good way to iterate on your product.

Preston Lewis: That’s good advice.

Ryan DeLuca: And it sounds like, I mean, the difficult part, of course is just having that open [00:03:00] mindset. Right? It’s really easy to, like you said, discount the negative reviews, or when somebody’s telling you something you want to like explain it. And rather than get more information about why do they think that, and what would they like, how would we change it? Sometimes you immediately wanna go into, like, defensive mode. But I agree with you, like, interacting with the community as much as you possibly can. Creating opportunities for those interactions, like, through, like, places like Discord, online, or for us actually in the gym. Taking users out to breakfast or lunch, and really digging into it. And doing it from a place of learning, not a place of just trying to make them say nice things, and taking that mindset back to the product.

Preston Lewis: Some of our best feedback has come from our kind of squeakiest wheels, if you will. People that, when they do approach it, it’s like this, you know, they’re maybe rage quitting on an experience or something like that. And it’s, to your point, it is good to have those people that are at least passionate enough to give us the feedback that we can listen to and then iterate. Because it’s usually, it’s usually on the mark for larger groups of our users. So, yeah. Appreciate that advice, man. That’s awesome.

Cix Liv: Yeah.

Ryan DeLuca: Well, let’s get into exciting new things [00:04:00] that you’re doing. So, um, no longer with YUR, um, and now you’ve started a new AR sports company called REK and we’d love to learn a lot more about that. So how’d that come about? What made you decide to start that and, uh, tell us a little bit about the product.

Cix Liv: The latest company I started is REK. So it’s kind of a combination of the two prior companies in the learnings that I had there. So, LIV, the biggest learning was how do we reach the people outside the headset? How do we make it interesting for people to watch? If you combine that with fitness, which you know, is in my opinion the biggest use case of headsets, the data suggests that retention for fitness related apps is twice as high as anything else in VR.

Yeah, actually, that’s one small point to mention at YUR that we noticed. So we had an underlying tracker that worked on the headset no matter what. Right? And what we recognized is that when people used their headset for fitness, they used it over twice as long.

So the average usage [00:05:00] length for a headset was about eighteen minutes. But when they used it for fitness it went up to forty. That was a huge learning for me, right? So the big learning from LIV was we need to show what people are doing and we need to make it cool for other people to watch.

The biggest learning from YUR was headsets being used for fitness have the best retention. And, you know, I believe fundamentally it’s the biggest use case of HMDs. Um, so if you combine those two learnings of fitness and spectating, you create, you know what is essentially sports. Right?

I started this company under this premise that, you know, sports are going to be the next big thing. And the reason I believe that is because I did some ideation in augmented reality and it kind of fell into the same issues of VR, which is, like, why the fuck do I put on a headset? Right? And a lot of AR apps have that same challenge where they’re like, “okay, I put on a headset so I can play puzzles with my friend who’s also physically there.” And then at that point, I’m just like, “why don’t you just fucking [00:06:00] put a puzzle there?” Right? Like, why are we digitizing that experience when it’s something that you can do in real life?

Or like, “you want to do augmented reality basketball? Why don’t you just play basketball?” Right? Like, the person’s already there. A basketball is, you know, like twenty bucks. Right? It’s like technology trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Right?

So, you know, there was a lot of people who were doing VR sports and for me, I was like, “well that’s not gonna work in AR, because you’re eventually just gonna churn out and do the real thing.” Right? This is why I have a problem with VR sports; I believe that the problem with VR sports is that the ultimate goal is when you become good enough at it, you turn into the real thing.

What I became fascinated with is, like, Tron. Let’s make a sport that doesn’t exist in real life. You watch any sci-fi movie that’s ever existed. Right? [00:07:00] And when they show the future of sports it is usually relatively similar. Right? People doing stuff and like dueling each other and killing each other digitally, doing stuff that you can’t do in normal sports. Like, you can’t kill your friend in basketball.

Sci-fi movies kind of demonstrated what the future of sports could look like, and sometimes you don’t want to fight against the cultural zeitgeist of something and just follow through with it.

I started this company with my co-founder Bart.

He was a senior AR engineer at Apple. And you know, one of the things he’s always been really interested in is, what are valid use cases of AR that can actually exist right now? And so he built a laser tag game that won the number one place for an open computer vision contest last year.

And basically I reached out to him and I was like, “hey, you know, like, we should think about what is gonna be, like, the Beat Saber of AR? As we move to AR, what is gonna be a proper use case of headsets?” So when we first came together,[00:08:00] we were testing things like Space Pirate Trainer Arena.

So Space Pirate Trainer Arena, it’s thirty by thirty feet, and it’s like a laser tag game where you run around and you shoot at each other in VR. Right? And so we were testing games like that, and first of all, it was such a fucking pain in the ass to find a place that was thirty by thirty feet exactly. And then the way that you draw the Guardian with the Quest was a massive nightmare. So it had to even be even bigger than that. And if it was outside, we’d have to hotspot it, and it would only work during certain times of the day and all this nightmare. But then another huge thing that we noticed, is that when you actually physically run in VR, it’s so uncomfortable. Your brain starts freaking out.

It’s like, “where the fuck are you? Like, are you gonna run into something? Is someone gonna mug you?” It has to be AR when you’re running. Once you introduce running, there has to be augmented reality.

Ryan DeLuca: [00:09:00] Like, I agree. Like, I’ve never experienced actually running in VR. Um, yeah, but you’d have to, like, have a ridiculous amount of trust.

Cix Liv: Yeah. I mean, if you’ve played any boxing game in VR and punched anything, right? I remember I punched a table one time and my whole hand was bleeding, but I didn’t realize until I took off the headset and I was like, “holy shit.”

Preston Lewis: Oh, wow.

Ryan DeLuca: There is less pain perception, so I guess that could be good and bad. There’s a whole subreddit of VR to ER. Right? Uh, for a reason.

Cix Liv: Oh, is it really called VR to ER?

Ryan DeLuca: Oh yeah. People are showing them destroying things or hurting themselves.

Preston Lewis: It messes with the immersiveness. Right? As well. Because, yeah, like you said, like, once you do that one time, then you’re not thinking about being in the experience. You’re thinking about hitting something. Same thing happened to me when I was, uh, I was playing one of the baseball games and it miscalibrated my position and so I was, like, inches from a wall and went to swing for a pitch and just slugged the wall as hard as I possibly could. Yeah, I’m not playing that anymore.

Cix Liv: The second you introduce [00:10:00] running, that fear becomes so much more realized.

Preston Lewis: Interesting.

Cix Liv: Your body really starts freaking out. Cause it’s, like, is that a real wall or is that a virtual wall? The way these games sync, they interlace the avatar on top of the person. Right? But if that’s off by any significant degree, you’re just gonna run head first into you’re a friend. And just slam into them. Right? I fundamentally believe that once you grow out of the limited footprint of VR, it has to be AR, if you’re like running and doing stuff like that.

But there’s massive, massive challenges with AR. One of the most obvious ones, if you start building for this, is that, like, any of these pass through headsets, they don’t actually segment the players properly. So what ends up happening is that everything renders in front of the person. So say that you’re, like, competing against someone else. Right? And that person is there and you wanna put a goal behind them. Oh, it sounds simple. Right? But you [00:11:00] can’t, because the goal would have to render in front of them. It can’t cut the person out and render the object behind them.

So you have to do immensely complicated technical stuff to solve something that wouldn’t exist in VR. Right? Because you don’t have that same problem in VR where you have to, like, segment the person out. So you have to introduce an invisible avatar that renders on that same person, where the person is, and then you have to make sure that the person is synced properly.

And then, you’re creating that cutout in front of the goal that’s behind them. Otherwise, you’ll see the small goal, but it’ll render in front of the person, even if they’re, like…

Preston Lewis: That’s interesting. So it’s like real-time rotoscoping slash masking. That’s interesting.

Cix Liv: This is why, you know, when we announced REK, or whatever, we did a really simple thing. We did spell duals. Right? And the reason we did spell duals were, okay, you’re punching. This is a mechanic that anybody can understand. [00:12:00] And one of the biggest things for me that I determine as a success criteria, is the simplicity of initial adoption. So when you put on a headset, the amount of time that it takes someone to understand how to play a game is incredibly important. Cause I’ve demoed VR for hours and hours and hours, and the longer that time takes, the higher chance that they’re gonna churn out. Right? So that has to be, like, as narrow as possible.

So we started, okay, you’re punching at the person, no buttons. Very simple. Right? And then the reason it’s a spell duel, is because you don’t have to render any objects behind them. So it wasn’t just like, hey, we woke up and we were like, “Hey, let’s do a spell dual like Harry Potter or some shit.” It was based off the limitations of the Quest headset. Right?

Like, we can’t have goals behind them. We can’t do all this other fancy stuff without a massive amount of engineering effort. So the lowest bar for us were just, “well, let’s punch Fireballs at each other.” And so that’s kind of the reason why that initial demo was [00:13:00] the way it was.

Preston Lewis: Small little note there for our users, kind of putting a pin in the fact that we talked about you getting scrappy with user feedback and letting that kind of guide product decisions. That was a good example you just gave of playing in the sandbox of what the technology can actually do and accomplish and finding fun, as fast as possible in the experience. So, that’s good.

Ryan DeLuca: A big part of REK, and why people seem to like us so much also, is being able to spectate. Right? So they can actually watch it from the outside. What you really put a focus on with REK, was making it so that other people can watch it in real time and cheer them on in real time like you would a sport. And how did you get that to work and what have you found from that kinda ability?

Cix Liv: We realized from pretty early on that having any type of significant obstacles, would not only be confusing for the players, but create visual conflicts for spectators. Right? When you’re watching a football game or you’re watching a soccer game or [00:14:00] something, they don’t have like walls. Right? Hypothetically if a camera existed in soccer and they had all these walls everywhere, you wouldn’t be able to see what the players are doing. It’s design challenges like that that are important, but they’re also limiting. Right? Now you can’t do a lot of the shit that you’ve done in VR with all these cool environments. Basically the environment almost disappears at that point. Right? You can’t have a complex environment if you’re trying to spectate. So, I think that that’s also gonna be something to think about that we’re gonna have to figure out. We may have to render something different for the players inside the headset than what people outside see. So, like, in the headset you would see opaque pillars, but in the spectator view they’re transparent. Right?

Like, all these design decisions that you’re gonna have to make, that you wouldn’t have to even think about in VR, if you’re designing intentionally for spectating. The ultimate product that [00:15:00] we’re gonna release is not gonna be a spell duel game in the same capacity. Um, but yeah, we were just, you know, what is the most basic thing that we can do? And what is the mechanic that anybody in the world can understand? And yeah, that’s kind of where that came.

We’ve been working on quite a few different game concepts and in the next few months we’ll announce that, uh, and it’s not gonna be quite the same as the spell duel for the final product, so.

Ryan DeLuca: Well, now I’m excited to hear more about that.

I don’t know if there’s anything else you wanted to say about creating REK and like the decisions that were made around that.

Cix Liv: So we originally came in this idea, like, “hey, we’re gonna do LBE and stuff”. Right? And then we actually went through the process of trying to get into the LBE game and, uh, whew, man, I do not…

Ryan DeLuca: Location based entertainment, so actual retail footprint. Right?

Cix Liv: Yeah, yeah. So we looked at Sandbox and we were like, okay, Sandbox has all these locations, [00:16:00] but they’re capital expensive, you know? So then we were like, “okay, so we’ll ship people hardware and have them set it up at their venue.” And we were like, “okay, but then we’re gonna have like a fifteen year old fresh outta high school trying to manage this shit. So that’s gonna be a nightmare and a half trying to, like, manage that remotely.” Um, so we were just, you know, we tried to work some channel partners on it and we just realized the LBE strategy is something that we just couldn’t afford, honestly. You know, we couldn’t afford to even try it.

So we’re going back to approaching it as creating consumer product. That’s also like where my specialty comes from, like building in VR, is on the consumer side. So we’re gonna have a VR mode that connects to an AR mode, and our biggest focus is gonna be building the bridge between those two worlds. How do you actually get people to bring a headset outside? And I think that’s an unsolved problem. And the way I like to explain it, in the most succinct way possible, is REK is [00:17:00] trying to do to headsets what Niantic, you know, Pokemon Go did to phones. Which is get people to, like, think of their devices as almost like a fitness extension of themselves. Or, like, using that to walk around.

I do think that at some point we may go back into LBEs, but it’s likely gonna be more like UFC tournaments, high production value, you know, advertisers, whatever. Because, yeah, it is really expensive and we don’t have the, you know, we didn’t have the money to do that. Right?

Preston Lewis: We’ve noticed that as you’re building these experiences, one of the things you’ve done, you and the team have done really well is making them look cool. Not only in the experience, but in the marketing. We kind of mentioned the viral videos and things that you did early on. It sounds kinda like a simple thing. Right? To make things look cool. Because this is future tech, this new tech, and it seems like it’d be easy to make it cool. But, with Black Box VR, we’ve had to fight the perception in the early days, at least that VR Fitness was only for [00:18:00] super techy people.

But you guys have done just an awesome job making it approachable and cool. Even looking at the REK videos, those are also getting a bunch of attention and just kudos to you and the team on making the tech look cool.

Ryan DeLuca: It’s a such a good point. So many times some new VR fitness thing comes out or workout game, and it’s just like the worst graphics, the worst marketing. And obviously that’s not the most important thing, you know, in a lot of experiences. Like, we always talk about Minecraft, for example, you know, starting out more pixelated kind of stuff.

It’s always, like, man, people wanna look cool. Like, you know, like you said, it’s like nobody wants to ride a Segway, but we will ride a cool bird scooter down the road. Right? You know, it’s like the same thing, just a different configuration. So, such a good point that Preston made is, like, all your stuff looks modern and cool, that people wanna be a part of it.

Preston Lewis: It’s awesome. Before we jumped on here, I was looking at some of your stuff and you kind of poked fun at the, uh, what was it? Horizon Worlds or something like that. And you have, like, you have the kind of the dorky kind of graphics and stuff, and then you have you’re a hero shot. I thought that was really good. I mean, that’s another thing that’s really important, again, in driving [00:19:00] adoption is that tool of contrasting. Right?

And showing people, like, it doesn’t have to be this, it can be this. Anything that we’ve seen you do, it’s, you’ve done a really good job with that.

Cix Liv: You’re talking about the tweet where it was like their Metaverse our Metaverse, and then it was like the… yeah.

Preston Lewis: Yeah. That was awesome.

Cix Liv: I mean, to be honest, Meta is making it pretty easy, okay. I have to be somewhat on their good graces, so I’m sorry in advance. But, uh, you really gotta work on your marketing. The Horizons World stuff, I believe, is so bad that it’s taking down our whole industry.

I believe Horizon Worlds is so poorly marketed, and such a bad product, that is taking down the entire VR space. Because when you go into the cultural zeitgeist of talking to people about Metaverse. Right? The very first thing they’re gonna think of is the shitty looking Zuck avatar and, you know, Horizon Worlds And that’s by intention, that Meta is, like, this is the Metaverse, right? And it’s discrediting [00:20:00] what so many cool things that we’ve built in this space look like. And it’s really disappointing, because I think it’s such a bad allocation of resources, and it’s such a bad look for headsets that it’s actually hurting all of us.

Ryan DeLuca: Some of the commercials they make are amazing. You know, when they show, like, what it’s like to be in VR and put the headset on. Now you’re in this huge thing and just mind blowing. And you’re right, and obviously it’s still early days, so we’re all hopeful. Right?

Because I agree with you, like, with the amount of investment that they’re putting into it, they can make or break it, you know? And if they do a great job, the hardware gets to where it needs to be. It’s gonna be very helpful for all of us. But you’re right, it could bring us down if it’s not the product that the mainstream wants.

Cix Liv: I would look into the PICO if I were you guys, I don’t know if you used the PICO 4 at all, but, like, this thing is everything the Quest 2 should be. It’s thinner, it’s smaller, it’s more lightweight, it’s designed more for fitness. It’s everything the Quest 2.5 should have been. And instead, they came out with a Quest Pro, which is $1,500 that has face [00:21:00] tracking and eye tracking, but it’s even heavier than the Quest 2. And the weight was already a big problem. I just I don’t get it.

Preston Lewis: You talked about the AR, VR experiences that you’ve built or are building. What are your favorite AR, VR sports and fitness experiences today? And what makes ’em good?

Cix Liv: I really like this game called Blaston. I was playing it a lot in the pandemic. So it’s a dual game, it’s one v. one, and you’re shooting these various speed projectiles at each other and there’s no form of locomotion. You’re both on these small pillars, and then what it ends up becoming, is like, you’re having to do a lot of dodging… it’s really active. I think I hit like a thousand calories an hour playing that at full intensity. I really liked that.

The best sports type game in VR right now is probably Nock. So if you’ve tried Nock, Nock uses arm locomotion where you hold a trigger and you kind of fly in the air and then it uses [00:22:00] bows. So you’re shooting arrows at a ball.

I think my biggest advice for people who build VR and AR content, is at the absolute fundamental of what this is, it has to feel good. If it doesn’t feel good, nothing else fucking matters. You can make the best graphics in the world, you can make a great storyline, you can make whatever the fuck particle effects that are amazing. If the base mechanics don’t feel good, none of that shit matters.

And you know what perfectly, perfectly represents this is Gorilla Tag. If you look at a screenshot of Gorilla Tag, you’d be like, “what the fuck are you doing?” They have passed Beat Saber for the most reviews on the Quest now. They are now the number one fucking application, and they’re not even in the store. And the reason for that goes back to the point that I made here, at its baseline, there’s a locomotion method. And the locomotion method is basically you running on your hands. Right? [00:23:00] No buttons, no complexity whatsoever. And it’s exercise. It’s like tag, it’s basically like tag for kids. And the kids are in there and it definitely gets offensive a lot, so maybe that’s why they’re not in the main store. But it’s basically kids running on their arms, yelling at each other. And that became the number one. I’m not even kidding. They’re just screaming at each other and they’re just running like this.

Preston Lewis: That’s awesome.

Cix Liv: Feels good. Feels good. It doesn’t feel good nothing fucking matters. And your app is going to flop.

Ryan DeLuca: Anytime I’m trying to reload a gun in one of these complicated kind of first person shooters, I guess my definition of VR, they’re all first person, you know?

But it’s like, I’m hitting my controllers together, or I’m trying to do this thing and the guy’s coming at me, and I can’t quite get the little parts of reload. It’s like, it kills it for me, because it’s like, I’m sure I could get good at, I’m sure if I played at another ten hours, I’d probably like, you know, have no problem.

But at first it’s just, you’re just, it’s very awkward.

Cix Liv: You know Denny from Cloud Head, right? He’s a VR OG and he is made a bunch of [00:24:00] experiences. His original games were kind of like Myst, like, Call of the Starseed, where you like, would basically solve puzzles in VR with really high fidelity. And he built Pistol Whip, you guys know Pistol Whip, right? And Pistol Whip is basically just like Time Crisis on rails in terms of, like, the mental math and what you need to do. You know, you’re going from extremely complex, and dynamic and amazing graphics into, like, basically Cel Shaded Time Crisis.

It was his most successful title. And, like, I think a lot of game developers are mad about that. And they go, ” why can’t we have amazing graphics? Why can’t we have dynamic storylines? Why can’t we have all this other shit?” And it’s like, well, if it doesn’t feel good, people are just gonna use their console. They’re just gonna go play their Playstation. Right?

Preston Lewis: You kind of alluded to designing in game mechanics and interaction patterns that have lower cognitive load, right? So that the game continues to be fun and people stay immersed. So what do you feel like [00:25:00] is missing from the AR, VR sports and fitness industry today?

Cix Liv: Well, if I told you that I’d be giving away my secrets.

Preston Lewis: There we go.

Cix Liv: So I’ve divulged everything.

Preston Lewis: Fine, tell us your first name, then. Fine. Just tell us your first name.

Ryan DeLuca: Yeah, what’s your real name?

Preston Lewis: Yeah, what’s your birth name?

Cix Liv: I think that you can kind of, like, paint the picture of what I think is going to be the future based off what I’ve said in the past. Which is, you know, low cognitive load, easy to understand, reason to put on the headset is active, you know, interesting for people to watch. And then the biggest issue in our space, by far, is working around the limitations of the hardware. Right? Because like, oh my God, I can tell you how many times I ideated on some shit, and I turned out as, like, can’t do it. It’s, like, ninety percent of the shit you build in our industry, falls into “sounds good, doesn’t work.”

Honest to God, it’s like almost every fucking idea that I have, it’s [00:26:00] like, “oh, you know, I can’t do that because of Facebook platform control. I can’t do that because we don’t have lower body tracking. I can’t do that because the hand tracking wasn’t trained to work outside, so it only works in low light environments. I can’t do that because, you know, the second you put a weight in your hand, it can’t detect your hand anymore. So you can’t quantify the fitness.” Right?

Another big issue with developing for AR, is that you don’t have access to the camera data, it just basically comes in as a shader. That’s it. And so that limits a whole bunch of stuff that you can do. And then there’s no death camera in it, so you can’t easily segment players out. You know, there’s some like laser tag concepts that people have made with the Quest. And they create this video and it makes it look so good.

It’s, like, “okay, there’s people in their office and they’re hiding behind boxes and they’re shooting at each other, that’s gonna be so fucking amazing.” Right? And then you go about to do it yourself and develop it, like anything like that, and you’re, like, “holy shit, this [00:27:00] is impossible”. Like, first of all, you can’t turn off the guardian for the Quest unless you’re in dev mode. Okay? How many people are in dev mode. Right? Like, people on SideQuest, no one else. So, you can’t make an AR experience that has the guardian off. And you’re gonna what, draw a thirty foot guardian every single time in your office? Right? So that’s a huge issue. And then I mentioned the issue of, like, rendering people on top of it, and then the fact that there’s no shared SLAM maps?

So, like, if I have a SLAM map in my headset, I can’t share it to any headset around me in the Quest ecosystem. You can in the Vive, so the Vive has shared SLAM maps. So, I have to go map the entire scene with my headset, and then I can’t share that SLAM map with anybody else. So all these concepts that people show are very conceptual, because you can’t actually do a lot of this shit.

The thing that’s aged me the most in this [00:28:00] space is the “sounds good, doesn’t work” shit, which turns out to be like ninety percent of anything that you think of.

Ryan DeLuca: It’s interesting, because usually what we hear is “it’s frustrating because most people don’t have a headset”, you know? So that’s already the limitation that we are dealing with. Is that, it’s not that everybody’s got a headset, but we can’t do those things. That just adds onto it, and it just creates less reasons for people to get the headset.

And we run into the same things. It’s, you know, we’re stuck in, uh, you know, SteamVR ecosystem. And, you know, we’re using the Vive Pros at, uh, Black Box. Because we have to have some type of way to do external tracking of arms and hands, without dealing with occlusion from normal hand tracking for different movements, like squats and deadlifts and overhead press.

And so we’d love to be able to use a wireless headset. We’re still stuck with the wired headset, because we need to be able to have basically the Vive tracking pucks, or we use the Tundra Trackers. And, you know, there’s other things like Kinect-style cameras that we potentially could use. We’ve tested a bunch of those things, but they’re not fast enough, you know, because we’re doing a lot of punching and slicing and movements, or they deal with occlusion as [00:29:00] well.

So, you know, it feels like everything’s really close. Like, man, good hand tracking and, you know, if we could just get that so that the field of view is a little bit better. Full body tracking, even if they’re just kind of like guess a little bit around, it could be really interesting. But, like you said, these shared experiences are pretty much impossible with the limitations of this closed down hardware, and we’re gonna have all that stuff soon, you know? And when are we gonna have all that stuff we want? It could be tomorrow, it could be an announcement from somebody tomorrow. It could be three years from now and we just don’t know.

You’ve mentioned Beat Saber, like that modding community. I totally agree, like, without LIV, without that modding community, and all the other songs and all the other stuff, it wouldn’t be where it is today. It’s obviously still an awesome game, but it might have been more of an Audioshield and get some traction, but not a lot of traction like it did. And they’ve taken a lot of that stuff away, specifically speaking about the Quest platform, which is the biggest platform today, of course.

Preston Lewis: The next question was gonna be describe your perfect AR, VR sports and fitness experience. But it sounds like it is staying within the sandbox of the hardware that is currently [00:30:00] available. Trying to future cast a little bit, but not going crazy, because as you mentioned, if you build too far ahead all you’re gonna have is a bunch of tears and no shipped products.

You talked about the spectator aspect of it, which we from day one we thought was super important in Black Box VR. We always say that the nice thing about sports, building a sports title, is that you can build it and it’s infinitely replayable. Versus having to actually build a title that is kind of this linear storyline that has x amount of hours and then you gotta build it again. So, that’s huge. We totally agree.

And not only for the fun of the user, but we really do believe that AR, VR spectating modes could be amazing. Right? We’ve all seen the World of Warcraft slash League of Legends, gigantic spectacles of eSports and stuff like that, so sounds like the same page there.

Of course gives you a workout, of course is immersive, uses patterns that aren’t too much cognitive load. And basically, just, we need to somehow crack the whip on the hardware manufacturers and get them to build stuff faster for us, because[00:31:00] that’s what we run into.

Cix Liv: I would reach out to PICO though. The PICO 4, you know, the two main focuses they have are fitness and games, and they seem to be taking fitness very seriously. There’s also a really interesting reason for that, by the way.

In China, they have caps on how many video, how much you can play a video game per day. And if you can convince the government that it’s a fitness device, you break out of that limitation. So that’s actually one of the small reasons they’re hyper-focused on fitness, is if they can convince the government that it’s a fitness device and not a game device, they can actually break out of that limitation.

That’s a small thing I discovered by going down the path of localizing to China.

Ryan DeLuca: Well, man, we’ve learned so much from you. I think we got like a million notes here. This’ll definitely be our longest podcast ever, so far. So, uh, really appreciate it. I think to wrap things up, what’s next for you? What’s next for REK? We’ve, you’ve heard a lot about, uh, these upcoming versions of the game and what it’s not gonna [00:32:00] be, and a little bit of what it’s gonna be, but where, what’s next for you and, and what are you guys, uh, up to next?

Cix Liv: I guess you’d have to follow my Twitter.

Preston Lewis: There we go. Call to action.

Cix Liv: C I X L I V. Um, I’m willing to divulge everything about the past of how I got up to now, but some of the stuff that we’re working on in the future, I’d like to keep under wraps until we announce it. We’re definitely going to be building something that works in AR and VR, and we’re definitely going to build a companion application that allows you to spectate that. And then, hopefully at some point, move this into tournaments with brackets and leagues and, you know, all the stuff that sports have.

I think one of the big things I wanna leave people with, that’s something that, might be a light bulb moment. Is when we were doing our tests, we did a pilot, down in, um, Los Angeles. There were a few different things that happened that made me think we’re going on the right path.

Um, there was a [00:33:00] boyfriend and girlfriend who were, you know, the boyfriend was going to go play against his friend. And before he played, and he was putting on a headset, his girlfriend came over to him, gave him a kiss, and said, “you better win”. And then we had a moment where a dad was watching his son, and he was playing against his son’s friend, and he was standing there next to the TV like, you know, cheering on his son, like, very, very clearly, cheering on his son. And he could see his son and he could see how he was playing his friend and all this other stuff. And so those moments were really important.

But the thing that really light bulb this to me, is if this was a video game that never would’ve happened, because what would’ve happened is, first of all, that girlfriend would be like, “what the fuck are you doing?” Like, “we’re at a venue”, like, “why are you going and sitting and playing League of Legends?”

Like, you know, “we’re here to have fun, what the fuck are you doing?” Right? Because she couldn’t participate in what was happening, because she’d have no [00:34:00] idea or the context of what the fuck is happening. Right? And so that would’ve happened. And then the same thing would’ve happened with the dad and his kid. Where if his kid came over and sat down and played a video game, even though it was, you know, quote on quote eSports, he’d be like, “what the fuck are you doing? We’re out here to have fun.” Again, because he could not participate or understand what was happening. And so my big obsession with this space is that I believe if we nail this, this is bigger than the entire XR space, because it breaks out of the space like that Beat Saber video did five years ago.

And that’s why I do this. I believe that if this is nailed, XR sports become bigger than the entire space, because it can get adoption from people who aren’t in headsets. And that’s why I’m like, light bulb moment. This is it. You know? Now, whether or not the hardware is gonna get there in time and, you know, [00:35:00] all this other fucking bullshit we deal with in our space is another question. But, you know, that’s the hope. That’s the dream.

Preston Lewis: Yeah, so, all right, that’s all the time we have. Thanks so much, Cix for being here with us. I’m sure our audience really appreciates it. And for anyone in the audience, as always, we will put anything in the show notes to get into contact with Cix and to get involved in what he’s doing. Really appreciate it. 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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