A long time ago, in a world far away, there was this new thing that was touted to be the future of civilization as we knew it.
It was called the internet. (Ok, it was actually the 1990’s and this planet but go with me on this.)
In an Idaho town, a young aspiring bodybuilder and entrepreneur saw a way to create a business, a website, that he thought could potentially change the way people bought supplements, read information that could help them reach their goals, and lead the bodybuilding and fitness industry into the future.
That young man was Ryan DeLuca.
If you’ve followed fitness for a while then you probably know the rest of the story. For those of you that are new, he did pretty well and recently retired from his position as CEO.
You think DeLuca would’ve been satisfied with his achievements and enjoyed retirement in his 30’s. Instead, he saw another opportunity and is seizing it.
Along with partner Preston Lewis and a team of dedicated graphic designers and engineers, DeLuca is developing “Black Box VR” which he hopes will reveal a new reality of fitness that could have an impact on technology, the industry, and most importantly many people who want and need to get in shape but might be intimidated by the gym setting.
What is this new reality? It’s virtual reality.
Why Virtual Reality?
When DeLuca took time to analyze the fitness culture, he came to a startling conclusion. “I have joked that the traditional gym environment is basically lifting rocks shaped a certain way in order to lift them up and down. People ask ‘what do you do for fun?’ ‘I lift things up and put them down.’
In a lot of ways I love lifting and what I get out of that. However the concept is very outdated, most people do not stick to it, it can be difficult to understand, and it can be intimidating to a lot of people because of privacy issues and people watching you. Some people like that but others don’t. It really hasn’t changed since Joe Weider came out with the Weider principles.”
There have been training styles, nutrition information, and new movements that have come along over the course of the past 80 years but the overall concept has been the same for generations. Pick something up, put it down, and repeat. In the 20th century, weightlifting was something that went from unknown and questioned to a multi-billion dollar industry.
But now we are in a new century and DeLuca concluded that the concept of fitness could use a facelift. He found a way that can catch the industry up to the advancements of technology today and do so in a way that can help many people not only improve their health but enjoy it as they do so by using virtual reality.
“I always loved the idea of bringing technology and fitness together. If there’s anything that gets me excited it is bringing some new form of technology together. Whether it was e-commerce or online streaming video or social networking, even online content was new at one point and people were looking at that like ‘free information, how can that impact the world of fitness.’
So I love the idea of using something in a way that can make a big difference and not just in making money but also helping people which is always very important to me.”
How it Works
You might be thinking that this isn’t that new of a concept. Anyone who has an Xbox or Nintendo Wii has been able to play fitness video games. But DeLuca is proposing and working to create something different – something that could take virtual fitness to a new level.
“I wanted to do something that’s not just the basic idea of VR. People might think ‘oh I know it’s like Microsoft Kinect or Xbox Fitness where you’re doing jumping jacks.’ I think that could be a business and there could be a lot of great content for people interested in that. I just don’t think it’s a sustainable business and I don’t think it’s fully leveraging what VR can do.”
Some people reading this might be thinking about performing aerobics or plyometrics but anyone who is into fitness knows you need resistance training as well. This is one way DeLuca plans on maximizing the potential of VR.
“The question became how do we make resistance training into VR? Is it even possible? If you try to use dumbbells while trying to wear a headset and take in a virtual experience, that’s an injury waiting to happen. Plus you can’t change the dumbbells if you need to go from 50 pounds down to 20 for example. Having to change out weights like that can ruin the inversion.
So the patent pending idea we came up with while working with a team of engineers is to use a whole new resistance system which would be controlled electronically with software which would connect with cables that would be connected with a smart handle that would be able to tell you where you are in the VR experience and measure exactly what you are doing. ”
A New Sport in the Making
As DeLuca, Lewis, and the entire team were looking at the concept of bringing together VR and fitness, they realized that they were doing more than creating a new way to help people get in shape. They might be on the verge of creating a new type of sport that they call a “V-Sport”.
This is a game experience within VR, not a workout. This should feel like a game or skill and like an immersed experience so you should feel really involved in what you’re doing versus just watching a trainer tell you what to do.
You’re really involved in an adventure and you’re going up against other people. You would win the game with your physical fitness. You can’t win with super knowledge or practicing a combination. It would be based on your physical fitness and not just strength but also agility, balance, and endurance. It would all be involved in a 30 minute immersive gaming experience.
So instead of leveling up your warrior or by leveling up in games like Candy Crush you would be leveling up yourself.”
As DeLuca explains, you will be able to take in this experience on your own or by competing against people who are at the same level of physical fitness as you are with the goal being to defeat your opponent with the benefit being your actual fitness level improving.
“I think if we can do what we’re doing, be able to track exactly what you’re doing, create an immersive game experience so you can compete with other people, we’re creating a whole new sport. There are traditional sports like basketball and football, there are e-sports with people playing video games which is becoming unbelievably popular to watch.
We’re calling this a V-sport. You will feel like you’re in an arena or on a battlefield, and you’re competing in a way that your physical fitness decides who wins or loses. I think this could revolutionize the world in ways we can’t imagine. This could be a spectator sport where everyone can take part in it.”
How Committed is He?
DeLuca has always been someone who has made himself accountable to his commitments by making them public. He found doing this has helped him stick to them and it is no different in this case because he vowed on his Facebook page that he was never going to train in a regular gym again now that he is developing Black Box-VR.
“It could be easy for me to say that I don’t have to do this and be lazy about it. I don’t have to go into work today or place any stress on myself for financial reasons but I want to create something big and put that pressure on myself to keep my team motivated as well as myself. So to say that after December 9, 2016 that I won’t train in a gym anymore is making a pretty big commitment.”
The Future and How You Can Be a Part of the VR Movement
With a long term vision and a history of success in the fitness industry pushing him, DeLuca and the team at Black Box-VR feel that in the decades to come people will see VR Fitness as the norm and fitness as we know it now will be in the past.
He hopes to have a commercial version by next summer and intends to begin opening locations across the country where he can introduce his new venture to the public within the next couple of years.
“I would imagine that people will look back and think about going into the traditional gym environment where every Monday is chest day, Tuesday is back day, leg day is skipped, and Thursday is another day.
They will see how monotonous the traditional gym environment is and they will ask themselves “how did they do it? We hope to create something that people will love it so much that they just won’t be able to stick to it but they won’t even want to quit it.”
This isn’t just a commitment that he is making but he wants others to join him as well. Are you into fitness? Are you into virtual reality? If so, Ryan wants to hear from you. He and his team are looking for people to be a part of Black Box-VR in various capacities including engineering, writing, and testing.