Exercise bike meets virtual reality meets video game. Sound crazy? The idea has raised close to $3 million already from venture capital veterans, and its biggest potential investor audience has been blessed by regulators, starting Monday.
VirZOOM works with virtual reality hardware to turn fitness into a VR gaming experience. If the company's marketing plan is right, it could make overpriced gyms with boring workout equipment sweat some new competition. The key is a bike accessory compatible with virtual reality headsets like Facebook's Oculus Rift and Sony's Playstation VR (Samsung Gear is coming soon). Motion sensors on the bike work so that the harder someone pedals, the faster the VR game moves through its universe, which currently includes a horse race, Formula 1 race and even a mythical environment.
To get VirZOOM up and running, exercise buffs need to invest $400 for the bike and another $1,500 for the Oculus Rift and compatible PC.
"It's not the person who does triathlons, but more the average person who spends $70 a month on a gym membership they never use," said Eric Janszen, co-founder and CEO of VirZOOM. Janszen points to the popularity of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. "What people grasp very quickly and is an easy way to pass time is always a good idea," he said. "The key is to take something traditionally boring, like working out, and make it fun."
The key to the millions raised in the company's early days (it only set out with a goal of $750,000) is equity crowdfunding, which allows accredited investors and venture capitalists to invest equity stakes in private companies.