The original idea behind the VirZoom was brilliant: a stationary bike that lets you exercise while cycling through various virtual reality environments.
The problem is that the number of people with the high-end VR headsets needed to use the VirZoom bike is still fairly small compared to the smartphone market.
The solution? Bring the VR biking system to mobile.
The new version of the VirZoom system pairs a removable sensor that can be attached to the peddle crank arm of any traditional stationary bike, and uses a Samsung Gear VR headset and a free mobile version of the VirZoom app to allow users to peddle their way through different VR environments. Like the high-end version, the VirZoom app gamifies biking, encouraging you to bike toward various targets and achievements.
The small, lightweight VZ Sensor contains an accelerometer that allows it to track the user's peddling motions, while the new Samsung Gear VR handheld controller can be used with the VirZoom app to aim and shoot at targets in the app while riding. When you want to turn the bike in a certain direction, you simply lean your head (while wearing the Gear VR) in the desired direction.
I had a chance to test the system out last week, and it not only works, it was far more fun (thanks to the immersive VR landscapes) than a normal session of spinning.
But the biggest reason the VZ Sensor and VirZoom mobile app has me excited is related to price. With the original system, you first needed to buy a PlayStation VR headset (and console), an Oculus Rift, or an HTC Vive headset, and the VR-ready computer required to use the latter two headsets. Depending on configurations, some of those options could cost you up to $1,500.
But the $99 VZ Sensor, when paired with the Gear VR and controller at $130, and a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+, makes peddling in VR immediately affordable. And because the sensor is easily removable using a slip-on strap, you don't even need to buy a regular stationary bike — yep, you can take the VZ Sensor to the gym and attach it to any stationary bike you want.
The VZ Sensor / IMAGE: VIRZOOM
Sweating into your pricey Oculus or Vive VR headset may be okay when it comes to light gaming, but when it comes to serious spinning, it's a bit more comforting know that if you drench your wearable VR headset in sweat and something goes wrong, using the VZ Sensor and Gear VR, you haven't suddenly ruined an $800 VR headset.
The only downside off all this is that, as of today, it's only available for pre-order and won't actually start shipping until October. Still, as a tool for turning your spinning workout into a distracting trip through effort-rewarding games in virtual landscapes as you burn off calories, this is a mobile device worth waiting for.