From afar, you’d think attendants were getting in a quick exercise after waiting in one of E3’s many long lines, but it was much more than that; the VirZOOM VR Bike Peripheral merges a stationary bike with the HTC Vive headset, allowing users to combine the exercise of biking with the immersion of VR in an effort to remain physically active while mentally engaged in a completely digital world.
It’s a lofty ideal we have already seen pop up in other ideas of VR devices, but in execution the experience is a bit underwhelming. I did get quite a leg workout, though.
Five demos gave me the opportunity to pedal as some form of locomotion while the controllers welded to the bike frame acted as bike handles. In the first demo, I was on horseback chasing after a bandit of ill-repute and faster pedaling moved the horse faster. Once close enough, I was prompted to throw a lasso and catch the criminal by holding down the right trigger and releasing at the right moment. Pretty simple overall.
The tank demo added the aiming aspect to the whole process, however this time aiming was done with headset itself instead of the HTC controllers. When ready to fire, I had to aim by positioning my head in the precise direction and aligning the enemy tank with the reticule that appeared when I was aiming. It was surprisingly intuitive and easy to maintain while I was still pedaling forward, but leading the target accurately became a whole new frustration as the vibration of pedaling constantly threw me off.
The only other noteworthy demo was when I was back on a horse, but this time it was a Pegasus. Pedaling would increase the height and speed of the horse (which was a bit unnerving for someone with a fear of heights). Looking down was exhilarating and stomach-dropping, which made the objective of landing the horse on a nearby island even more interesting.
Ultimately, the demos of the VirZOOM VR Bike Peripheral were more gimmicky than anything, clearly meant to demonstrate the potential of the bike peripheral and how it can easily be combined with the VR bubble. I could easily see the appeal of people looking to be more active in their lives without the need of paying for a gym or spin class, but the content needed to support a $400 peripheral would need to be far better than anything I saw on the floor. It is another fascinating endeavor in this growing industry, but time will tell if this is an avenue people will want to bike down for years to come.
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