As brands Layoffs have been made across the connected fitness industry amid recession fears and gyms are welcoming back members as Covid-19 restrictions ease. Virtual reality fitness app FitXR saw growth. According to the company’s CEO, Sam Cole, FitXR has quadrupled its membership in the last 12 months.
“There used to be a home, an office and a gym. The level of separation between these different physical environments has often been very important to people,” says Cole, who co-founded FitXR in 2016. “I think with the pandemic, people started merging home and work, and then people started merging home, work and the gym too. What we found at FitXR is that when you put on the headset from home, being able to transport yourself to another location is really, really important.”
FitXR’s immersive Quest VR workouts aim to bring users a new experience from the comfort of their own home.
For $9.99 per month, users can subscribe to FitXR for access to a library of on-demand boxing, dance, and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts. The pre-recorded workouts are led by professional trainers, whose digital avatars control and tune the movements when users tune in through their virtual reality headset.
FitXR is currently only available on Meta’s Oculus Quest, where its app has one of the top three retention rates among all fitness games on the Oculus Store. It will also be coming to Steam and PlayStation VR soon.
You used to have your home, your office, and your gym. The degree of separation between these different physical environments has often been really important to humans. I think with the pandemic, people started merging home and work, and then people started merging home, work, and the gym too. What we found at FitXR is that being able to transport yourself to another location when you put on the headset from home is really, really important.
FitXR launched its new mobile companion app for iOS and Android devices in August, allowing members to track their fitness progress and workout data on their phones, plan classes ahead and set weekly workout goals. The companion app is expected to add more immersive training features in 2023 and has been critical to FitXR as Cole expects VR headset consumption to increase more than 10-fold over the next three years as new headsets from Apple and ByteDance, the owner of TikTok.
“We consider ourselves focused on everything from virtual reality to augmented reality, [and] Mobile opens up some interesting augmented reality opportunities,” says Cole. “Many of our customers have purchased a headset and found FitXR through a recommendation from a friend or family member. Our word of mouth is so strong and I think that’s because the underlying experience is so experience based. So I think mobile is a way for us to expand that to give more people a taste of what we’re doing at FitXR.”
When training at home, users can choose from one of six virtual environments on FitXR to immerse themselves in vibrant virtual worlds in parks, rooftops and gyms. Workouts on FitXR are categorized by length and difficulty. Former professional boxer and two-time Olympic champion Nicholas Adams is among the trainers teaching on-demand fitness classes on FitXR, as well Zion Clarka professional wrestler who was born without legs.
According to Cole, FitXR has been testing trainers hosting live training classes, adding, “We have the technology to support that, we just need to come up with a full go-to-market strategy for when it’s relevant to bring something like this to market.” However, Cole seems more optimistic about pre-recorded classes being updated with improved motion tracking through new headset hardware and artificial intelligence that will allow FitXR to provide feedback based on player movements.
“It’s starting to blur the lines between an avatar talking to me and what’s all pre-recorded, but it gives me specific instructions based on how I’m playing. It feels more like his live feedback,” Cole introduces.
Between Sony’s upcoming Playstation VR2 headset, ByteDance’s Pico headset, and Apple’s debut device, several new contenders will be coming to the US market over the next year to compete with Meta’s Oculus Quest headset. Not only has Meta dominated the virtual reality hardware space, but it also struck a deal last year to buy FitXR competitor Within, makers of the popular VR fitness app Supernatural. The FTC is tries to block the acquisition and accused Meta of violating antitrust laws. The social media giant also owns popular VR dance app Beat Saber, which Meta (then known as Facebook) bought in 2019.
“Soon you will have almost complete body position data from the headsets. At the moment you can close the full body, we’re getting [data] from the headset itself and hand gestures from the controllers through things like inverse kinematics,” says Cole. “These AI systems are getting better and better every day. But new headsets will also bring additional tracking from cameras, which will also allow for more complete arm tracking and lower torso tracking.”
Another way for FitXR to enhance its workout experience is to leverage data from wearables, which Cole expects to start doing soon through integrations with Strava and Apple. The data would be used to personalize workouts as they take place, to the point where FitXR ensures a user can complete their workout, as the company’s research shows that users who engage in VR workouts experience greater Likelihood of coming back the next day and habit building the product.
“I love this vision where you do a hard run today and launch FitXR tomorrow. We welcome you to this experience, congratulate you on your run and we adjust the overall class recommendation based on your running performance,” says Cole. “If you have that experience, say you’re just a little off, maybe you have a tight hamstring, but we’re adjusting the course live to the moment to get you in the best possible position. I really feel like this is the next generation in truly personalized fitness.”