Project SingletrackTM is the first iteration of the Velo VRTM virtual reality exercise platform. The current prototype comprises a head mounted display adapted for use during exercise, a variable resistance exercise bike, an RPM sensor coupled to the exercise bike, and a virtual mountain biking course. The exercise bike is coupled to the computer rendering the virtual mountain bike course such that user exercise input (RPM) translates to avatar movement on the virtual mountain bike course.
We chose a recumbent exercise bike as our preferred input device as it is a seated experience, produces minimal head movement and leaves the user’s hands free to operate other controls. In the prototype version of the system a mini exercise bike was chosen for its portability, allowing us to easily demo the system and experiment with different exercise input modalities. The mini exercise bike has manually controlled variable magnetic resistance. We are currently integrating a recumbent exercise bike with computer controlled magnetic resistance so that in-game interactions will result in resistance changes on the exercise bike. It is worth noting that any exercise machine could be used in the system. Elliptical machines and steppers may be particularly useful for stand-up experiences.
The most exciting aspect of this project is the creation of unique and intriguing virtual environments in which to exercise. Exercising in virtual environments frees participants from geographic, weather, planetary and other reality based limitations that have previously restricted user exercise locations. Our prototype environment is an alpine singletrack mountain biking trail that traverses pine forests, mountain passes and cliffsides. We are currently building additional tracks set in urban environments, sci-fi settings, and additional natural landscapes.
Virtual reality exercise also enables exciting social functionality in stationary exercise. For example, remote users could meet in a virtual environment and exercise together. Additionally, user-user interactions can be used to influence the resistance of individual user’s exercise devices. For example, if a player is hit with a projectile in a virtual exercise environment, the damage associated with the “hit” can translate to alterations of the resistance on the user’s exercise device. We are currently working hard to implement networked multiplayer mode in our system.
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