The VR studio Within has combined the fun of virtual reality with the function of connected fitness to create Supernatural.
Planning on working out today?
What if instead of push-ups in your kitchen, or running around your neighborhood, you could get just as sweaty with some Rey-style training on top of a mountain—but without actually leaving your house?
That’s the basic pitch behind Supernatural, a new virtual-reality fitness platform launching today on the Oculus Quest. Created by renowned VR studio Within, it’s a subscription-based app starting at $19 per month (after a 30-day free trial) that combines personalized workouts and expert coaching from real-world trainers, as well as game mechanics and hit music—all set in stunning VR landscapes like the mountaintop, or a tropical lagoon, or an arctic seascape.
The origins for Supernatural began for Within cofounders and VR pioneers Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin with a mix of professional observation and personal necessity. While Within is known as a cinematic VR video distribution app, the company has also created interactive, multi-person VR experiences for events, like 2017’s “Life of Us” at the Sundance Film Festival.
“It coincided with some realities both Aaron and I were coming to terms with, like getting dad-bods, even though neither of us have any children,” says Milk. “Here we were watching people come out of our interactive experiences laughing and sweating. At the same time, we’re playing games in VR that are beat-driven, boxing games that get your heart rate up while moving to music. So we started strapping weights to ourselves and testing to see how high our heart rates got, and it was comparable to the other things we were trying—like I was going to OrangeTheory, and we both had Pelotons.”
The goal was to make a fitness experience that even people who hate to exercise would love. Milk compares it to the difference between working out and playing a sport. Both get you in shape, but the former can feel like a chore, while the latter is fun. To do it, they had to go beyond Within’s existing stable of VR talent and enlist more experts across such disciplines as kinesiology, biomechanics, behavioral psychology (to keep you coming back), as well as choreography to coordinate movement to music.
“We took everything that we’ve learned over the last 10-plus years of making interactive, immersive media together and channeled it into trying to figure out, if we were going to build the perfect exercise system for us, using the tools that we’ve become so passionate about, what would that look like?” says Milk. “Supernatural is essentially the result of that question.”
Milk and Koblin have been consistently working at the bleeding edge of technology, art, and creativity. They did so as a successful director and creative technologist, respectively, and then together on projects like Arcade Fire’s 2010 “The Wilderness Downtown” Chrome experience. So it shouldn’t come as surprise that the result Milk refers to is a VR workout that feels like a cross between Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, combined with familiar connected fitness community features like matchups, leaderboards, and combined workouts.
“When it comes to the social aspects of the connected-fitness landscape, a lot of that stuff is table stakes and pretty well defined,” says Koblin. “But all of a sudden, when paired with some of the other things we’re learning in virtual reality, we’ve now enabled something that’s never been able to exist before.”