February 17, 2017
People have predicted that virtual reality could have interesting applications for physical fitness. From fictional examples like the Star Trek Holo-Deck to more rudimentary real-life examples like the Wii video game system. The current hurdle with virtual reality is that if you remove sensory perception of your surroundings, it’s dangerous to be moving around in the real world. That’s why most VR applications and headsets recommend you remain seated for your entire experience. Hyve, a German startup company, has developed an interesting way around this problem with their ICAROS active virtual reality device.
The ICAROS Flight Simulator
The premise is simple. If the user doesn’t realize they are exercising, the experience will be more pleasant and more engaging. ICAROS combines a unique piece of exercise equipment with a virtual reality flight simulator. The device is a metal frame with pads for your knees and elbows. When in the machine, the user is suspending off the ground in a pose that resembles something like a planking position, but the device is mounted in a way that it can swerve in any direction. In order to maintain a position, the user needs to contract their ab muscles, and the user needs to work their whole body to tilt the device in different directions. In the virtual world, these small movements of the device control your avatar as it flies through rings in the sky.
‘This is a combined exercise machine and virtual reality flight simulator that turns you into Superman,’ –Johannes Scholl of ICAROS
- Whole Body Workout: The ICAROS works out muscles in every part of the body to a different degree. Hyvee ranks the exertion level of each of these areas on a scale of one to three. One is the least demanding while three is the most strenuous.
- Neck: 2 Medium
- Triceps: 2 Medium
- Lateral Abdominal Muscles: 3 Demanding
- Quads: 2 Medium
- Calves: 1 Moderate
- Chest: 1 Moderate
- Shoulders: 3 Demanding
- Abs: 3 Demanding
- Stimulation: On top of the physical benefits, ICAROS also improves the user’s concentration as they fly.
- Multiple Resistance Levels: Like any other exercise machine, the ICAROS has multiple resistance levels. As you improve your balance and strength, the difficulty of the workout can be increased.
- Natural Landscape: In the promotional content, there appears to be only one virtual reality setting. In the ICAROS, users fly over a lush outdoor landscape in mountainous terrain.
Other Examples of VR Fitness
The ICAROS is certainly the most ambitious VR exercise equipment on the market today. There’s examples of similar machines, but many of those resemble exercise bikes with controller buttons on the handle. However, at $8,000, the ICAROS falls out of the price range for most average consumers. Instead, some gyms are choosing to purchase the equipment to distinguish themselves from their competitors. If this catches on, we can expect a handful of different VR machines populating the largest gym chains and some unbearably long lines to use them.
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