Hands-on With Black Box VR – Muscling into VR

It's all about upper body strength in this fitness workout.

In an era where everyone is becoming more concerned about their health, whether that’s by eating the right foods or getting some regular exercise, videogames aren’t necessarily seen as a healthy life style choice. Yet with virtual reality (VR) that’s not the case, as roomscale experiences get you up off the couch and moving around, with some even going so far as to offer players a workout. One company looking to take that a step further is Black Box VR, with an resistance exercise routine made immersive and interactive with VR.

Showcasing its technology at CES 2018 – where it won an Innovation Award – Black Box VR’s setup will look fairly familiar to anyone who’s graced a gym at some point and tried the weight machines out. For the event the company demonstrated one particular workout which was mainly upper body, focusing on the arms, shoulders and chest. Facing away from the workout machine there were two pulleys which I needed to grab and then push out away from my chest, with the resistance increasing with each rep.

Obviously, this particular workout differed from a regular gym session with the addition of a HTC Vive and a couple of additional arm mount sensors which detected the arm motion. Inside the experience I was greeted with a massive arena, with an opponent at the far end. This opponent would then produce giant flaming birds which would then try and attack. To defend myself I could fling red glowing meteors at the birds by doing one chest press with both pulleys – it didn’t work just using one.

There was no aiming control or ability to change the power of each shot, just one rep would fire a shot and it took multiple shots to take one down. This couldn’t be continued indefinitely as the system learns about each user, how quick each rep is, the force being exerted and so on, adjusting the tension so that it becomes harder and harder to fire those meteors.

It certainly was a workout, one that was not only enjoyable but with the videogame challenge element one that I wanted to repeat again to improve my score.

Black Box VR did state that this was only a brief sample and there would be plenty of other workouts available in the final product. Just don’t expect to be playing this at home, it’s solely going to be available in gyms due to the equipment required, with Black Box VR confirming the first rollout will be in its own custom gym in California.

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