We need a better VR HMD.

This website reviews many games and experiences with the current Virtual Reality environment as it is. However, as you can see, many of the games and experiences haven’t quite made that perfect score. This is due to the fact that the industry is treating this new Virtual Reality as yet another gaming market and while this gear was initially made with this in mind, there is great potential to have Virtual Reality overtake many of the aspects in our daily lives—especially our fitness. Therefore, in order to make the “perfect” fitness game or experience, we need to look past the game and seriously consider the hardware. Just what would the perfect VR HMD be like? Here are the 5 key points that developers need to consider to make VR that much more friendly to fitness.

Durability

We need you to be a bit tougher, Oculus!
We need you to be a bit tougher, Oculus!

The first and most important aspect that is currently not in place is how durable the equipment is. It is widely known that it is relatively easy to break the current equipment on the market, such as the Oculus or the HTC Vive. The only virtual hardware that is currently durable enough to handle the true intensity of exercise is a smartphone that provides Virtual Reality and the same smartphone must also be protected by one of the many high-end phone protectors. Most of the designs to carry such technology is made of plastic that would not survive a really bad fall to the ground and the material that holds the technology in place is not meant to handle profuse amounts of sweat. And, let’s face it, VR from your smartphone isn’t the best option. We need an HMD that can take a bit of a beating while still being high end.

Portability

Once again, smartphones are the only Virtual Reality environments that currently have this capability, but it is extremely limited nonetheless. Smartphones simply do not have the storage capacity to handle games such as Titanfall. However, a more important aspect is the ability to see the environment around you without losing touch with the world of Virtual Reality. There are some games that have messed around with Augmented Reality, but Virtual Reality would take the environment you are in and turn it, entirely, into a different reality. An example of this is Zombie Run, which is a game that encourages you to run fast to get away from zombies, but this is an audio-only experience right now.

A Virtual Reality player would walk down the sidewalk while cars passed by on the road. In a normal VR environment, they would not see the cars at all and would walk right into them. In the VR we’ve envisioned, instead of seeing cars, one could see patrol robots that you must hide from. Instead of hearing zombies, one would see zombies coming at them. In an audio-only experience, one gets a nice backlog while running, but our brains can get confused in a Virtual Environment. Seeing zombies and also hearing them would put actual panic into the person, who would then run with increased adrenaline. This type of environment not only further engrosses a player, but would also ensure the safety of a player.

Weight

Another huge part of Virtual Reality that makes it less portable is the sheer size and weight of the machine powering our Virtual World. Smartphones win in this environment, but just barely because very few games can be played natively. When we think of the Virtual Reality device, we also don’t think of the computer it is attached to (normally). Therefore, unless you have the most powerful laptop on the market with the longest battery life, you need to think of your computer tower and the device itself. Right now, it’s simply not possible to take that type of technology outside. It’s not like we don’t have the technology for this as many top of the line smartphones can compete with some games in computer graphics and size is not really a problem anymore.

We have USB sticks that hold up to 128GB of storage and many of the very basic Virtual and/or Augmented Reality games can be played on the newest smartphones. We have the technology to do this. What we don’t have is a smartphone company willing to build a Game-centric smartphone. Most smartphones are built to handle everyday tasks and the power of the graphics card is seen as a side part of the core needs for a phone. In order to have this, the smartphone market needs to see the Virtual Reality market as another adoption of the mobile market, which brings us to the next aspect.

Accessibility and Gaming Market

Unless you have moderately good income or you are an avid fan that will save every penny to get this type of system, the best technology is not available to everyone. The machine that powers it is usually as much if not more than the device to view it. At the very minimum, the cost for the whole thing is around the same amount that a minimum worker gets paid in a couple of months. In order to be accessible to the point where there is a massive market, the Virtual Reality environment either needs to be adapted into smartphone technology to the fullest extent or a standalone Virtual Reality device needs to be made. These options are both very possible and one only has to look at the near success of the Steam Box to realize this technology can be made incredibly small for an affordable price.

In addition to this, there needs to be a dedicated market for the Virtual Reality world. Right now, the market just lists them as another game and Steam has a special “VR” category. This means you need to go searching, for the most part, to find them. However, what do I mean by a dedicated market? What I mean is an example of Google Play, but maybe call it Google Virtual and it operates like the market on Google Play. In order to get the good games, the ones that are really good, most individuals have to scour the forums of the online world to find them. There’s a small bit of games on Steam, but Indie Developers rarely release their demos or concepts on to Steam. You normally have to follow Virtual Reality forums to find the games that are exploring these aspects in greater depths and they are built much bigger than the ones found on Steam. Steam has a long approval process for any Indie game to make it to the market and some developers simply don’t want their game to be bogged down by the process. Google Play, on the other hand, is as simple as uploading the game to the Google Play account and releasing it to the public.

Something Besides Cardio

The last aspect comes more from the developer standpoint and that’s because there’s a lot of things you can do with Virtual Reality that you can’t do with other technology. When we think of fitness, we think of a lot of thing including cardio, but cardio isn’t the end of it. However, at the present time, all that VR has offered us is cardio machine integrations that ultimately limits what can be done with fitness in Virtual Reality. If you want total health, you need resistance training. There’s no other way to say it: We need VR to become as good as the gym when it comes to fitness. If it doesn’t, it will never truly be considered fitness by anyone who is actually fit.

Developers have already shown interest in multiple ways of exercising, such as Tennis and Boxing. These are forms of exercise that utilize all aspects of the body without forcing you to find an area to run in and many individuals do not have an environment they live in that is running friendly, such as many of the Northern parts of the world. That’s not to say that running is bad. In fact it’s quite good for you, but with such things as Martial Arts training, every single sport, and nearly every type of adventure at the virtual fingertips; running shouldn’t be a staple of the virtual fitness industry. But just think how amazing it would feel to swing a VR sword and actually feel the weight of it in your swing, or to make a right cross in a boxing game and feel the weight of the glove on your hands, or to be in a shooter game and actually have the weight of the gun over your shoulder! That’s the next step and while you won’t get that from an HMD, this is an enhancement that developers need to consider on the next wave of innovations.

All in all, the industry is doing great for its beginnings to a new era, but it has quite a long way to go before it is fully integrated into our lives. With the promise of fitness, and other adventures, Virtual Reality is still in its infancy. There are many games that incorporate exercise in them out right now for the Virtual World and until we meet these guidelines, we’ll just have to enjoy ourselves with those games and hit the gym for our workouts.

-Steven Runnels

Is there a new gadget that you think we should cover? Leave a comment below and we’ll get right on it!


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