Sam Cole is the co-founder of FitXR, along with Sameer Baroova. Their main product, Box VR, is a rhythm-based boxing inspired workout app with regularly updated workouts by professional fitness instructors.
The very first time Sam and Sameer met, while studying together, they discussed how virtual and augmented reality could completely transform entire industries and change many people’s lives. They both agreed that gyms were inherently boring and often uninspiring places and immersive fitness content could not only inspire and motivate but also provide better guidance.
Sameer, had 15 years experience in the video gaming industry, often on games using frontier hardware. Whether it was heading Pop Cap’s mobile division and launching titles such as Bejewelled or Plants vs. Zombies, or running content curation for the GameStick. Sam, came from a completely different world, having spent his entire career in finance. The two founded FitXR in September 2016 and now have a small, passionate team helping to achieve their vision.
We spoke to Sam about how virtual reality is becoming more popular in the fitness market and how FitXR have developed their products.
1) Is the future of fitness moving more towards fit-tech and virtual reality?
Virtual reality provides an amazing immersive experience and, as technology develops, the fitness world is definitely taking full advantage of this too. Virtual reality mainly appeals to those who finds more traditional exercise forms less compelling, as with virtual reality you ‘forget that you’re exercising’. It also appeals to those who can’t access a studio so prefer to work out from the privacy of their home.
2) How did you find a gap in the market for the Box VR product?
Consumers like the idea of gameified fitness products and we’ve seen first-hand the success of other home fitness technology products. We also see the potential of live-streamed classes and high-quality group classes that come at a premium price. We have combined those ideas together to form a new VR fitness concept.
3) What types of exercise work the best for virtual reality?
Any exercise which doesn’t involve equipment or machines – for example; boxing, dance fitness, aerobics and bodyweight exercises. However, we will of course aim to move beyond that as the technology progresses. For example, adding gym machines to a VR concept could be amazing – dull standalone resistance machines would suddenly become a whole lot more engaging. When integrating cardio machines, a bike is probably the easiest to incorporate for a VR spin-style class. We’re excited for what the future brings with fit-tech development.
4) Does virtual reality take away the social elements of fitness and, if so, how do you combat this concern?
Exercising in a group is powerful, whether it’s virtual or not, and everyone knows that when attending a group class the social element is a huge part of that. However, each person will take something different from a group exercise class and some participants will be there less for the social element and more for the fitness and competitive nature of certain classes. We have tried to incorporate social interaction for those customers who would like it, by integrating leaderboards to share with friends and family. We are also pushing the live workout aspect where others will be present with you in the virtual world.
5) How did you build initial brand awareness as a start-up?
We started off by selling directly to consumers who already had the headset and we worked closely with different app stores. We are looking to work with more influencers in the fitness industry to grow the brand, as well as having discussions with major gym chains and running pilots. Events are also great as a marketing tool and we are looking to have a presence at more fitness events, as well as the technology events.
6) What are the main challenges that you have faced with launching a virtual reality fitness product and getting your business off the ground?
The biggest challenge so far has been that people perceive issues with exercising and VR, such as sweating in the headset or lack of spatial awareness. But these concerns really aren’t as big as they seem. Little things make a difference, and it can still be both comfortable and hygienic. It’s a gradual process and a lot of people are sceptical about VR going mass-market; however popularity and awareness are definitely on the increase and the future of fitness is certainly becoming more technology-based.