Jack Duckett
Jack Duckett is a Senior Consumers Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel. He specialises in reports exploring the attitudes and behaviours of different demographic groups.
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At the 2018 CES tech show in Las Vegas, US-based start-up Black Box VR showcased its latest development, which seeks to incorporate gaming and VR into the strength training market. The training equipment includes a VR headset and a specially developed resistance machine. Putting on the headset transports users to a range of different arenas, allowing them to train in competition with an avatar or with others also using the Black Box VR equipment.

As described on their website: “We are creating the world’s first virtual reality gym experience. You’ll step into a Black Box VR boutique gym and immerse yourself in a whole new way to get fit that will make you never want to visit an outdated gym again.[…] Your actual speed, strength, and endurance will help you win, making it more like a futuristic sport than a video game.”

Black Box VR now plans to open boutique gyms across the US, which it claims would make it the first operator of an entirely VR gym chain.

The demand for immersive workouts

Mintel’s UK research on health and fitness clubs shows that people are turning to tech developments in a bid to make working out more fun. Indeed, 44% of consumers who currently use, or who would consider using, fitness clubs are interested in virtual reality exercise classes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, interest peaks amongst younger gym users, reflecting how such classes tap into the age group’s higher propensity for both technology and gym training.

This high level of interest in VR fitness classes certainly underpins opportunities for further development of virtual technology that can be used either in a class scenario or – as with the Black Box VR unit – for individuals working out alone.

Appealing to sedentary gamers

Sedentary lifestyles are increasingly cited as driving soaring obesity rates in Europe, the US and Australasia. Alongside watching television and sitting at office desks for many hours a day, video gaming has often been cited as having contributed to people’s reduced activity levels. Data for Mintel’s video games and consoles report shows that that two fifths of all British adults who own game consoles or computers play video games at least once a week, with this number soaring to three quarters of men aged 16-24.

VR’s ability to gamify working out could appeal to those who currently do not enjoy exercise and therefore fall short of exercise recommendations. VR headsets and other sensorial inputs are able to transform the user into imaginative characters, while also bringing a new dimension to the gym space itself, which could prove more appealing than mirror-heavy gyms with rows of equipment. Games can also be designed to get progressively more difficult, helping to gently improve people’s fitness levels while also preventing them from getting bored and giving up.