Closed gyms and crowded parks have created a need for new ways to exercise. But what’s shaping the future of fitness? Immersive technologies and extended realities (XR) are proving to be fit for purpose, helping us train in more dynamic ways and improve our performance with personalised insights. These are the key features energising the XRcise movement.
The Rise of XRcise
Data is moving from a report sheet to real-time coach. The advanced biometric data and health metrics in the latest Apple Watch series have finally got a training buddy. Fitness+ is the logical next step for Apple’s Health app, building on the success of digital coaches like Nike Training Club to connect health data, hardware and content.
With Fitness+ (product trailer), users’ health metrics are superimposed in real time on the screen as they watch workout videos. The health metrics adapt as the workout progresses, making it easy for the ‘Apple Watch athletes’ to live monitor their performance, and be more in tune with their bodies. With the immersion of real-world data in digital content, Apple is slowly creating the perfect health ecosystem to support their ambitions for the Apple TV, and their future AR Glasses.
Other XR hardware are exploring new types of fitness data. The Quest 2 is introducing ‘Oculus Move’ (product trailer), a new fitness tracker that allows users to monitor their fitness activity across any VR app (finally we can account for the sweat that goes into gaming). Other tracking devices such as the Oura Ring (website) use smart sensors to deliver personalised health insights, and AR-supported sports equipment like the WRLDS Smart Ball (website) is connecting our physical activities with virtual workout routines – pushing new dimensions of data and exercise insights.
People’s homes are now acting as offices, classrooms, dance floors, and also as semi-professional gyms. Especially as the high-tech, multimedia Peloton bikes have moved into plenty of living rooms. VR is taking this transformation one step further, empowering people to work out on mountain tops, but without the need to redecorate.
Leading the way is Supernatural (app trailer), the VR subscription that offers personalised, full-body cardio workouts and coaching from real-world trainers – whilst taking users to the most beautiful places on earth. This exercise platform from Within illustrates the freedom and power of untethered, 6DoF VR – and how it can transform any space into a motivational springboard for exercising.
Keeping our eyes on the prize isn’t always easy. Luckily, computer vision, one of the most exciting fields in XR innovation, is helping us spot what we can’t see. Apps like HomeCourt (app trailer) are using advanced AI vision to record and track all the shots (and misses!) on the basketball court. It then calculates the accuracy and trajectory of each shot to help players develop and master new skills. Of all emerging XR technologies, computer vision is definitely most likely to give birth to the next Michael Jordan.
While HomeCourt uses mobile camera feeds, the next generation of AR technology are presenting more in-depth perspectives of how we use our bodies. Complete Anatomy (app trailer) uses the Motion Scanner feature on the iPad Pro LiDAR scanner as a tool for measuring and analysing muscle movements, helping physical therapists and patients identify mobility improvements throughout recovery.
Looking even deeper within ourselves, products such as Helium (website) use neurofeedback technology to help manage anxiety and stress levels, improving our mental wellbeing with meditative AR and VR experiences. It’s a glimpse into a future where XR technologies can hopefully help us take better care of ourselves.
All these examples offer the opportunity for a new understanding of who we are, and the opportunity to become better humans, both physically and mentally. However, there are naturally concerns about privacy, and the exploitation of our health data by third parties for commercial or discriminatory purposes. As mainstream wearables and devices build an increasingly sophisticated view of us, the question is: Does the value-add balance with the information that we are giving away? It’s a question that is as personal as the data itself.
Our mission at PRELOADED is to be constantly developing and deepening our understanding of play as it evolves. Sign up to the New Play Space newsletter and join the conversation. If you want to learn more about other AR use cases, and the innovations driving the landscape, check out our 2020 Guide to AR.
Header image @ Supernatural / WITHIN
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