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Hands-On with the VirZoom VR Exercise Bike

CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
Or should I say, "Hands and Feet On"?    Pre-ordered VirZooms just started going out near the end of last month, and it looks like I'm lucky enough to be one of the first people to get my hands on the final, consumer-ready product!  (the VirZoom guys have been demoing slightly different, prototype models at pretty much every games / tech convention this year, and they've had some in the homes of alpha testers. Still!  I feel like I'm among the first here.)   Before I begin, I'd like to link to this thread @Dinoroger made back in February: https://forums.oculus.com/community/discussion/29594/vr-exercise-bike-virzoom/p1  I'll probably be re-hashing a lot of the same information covered there.
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In case you haven't heard of it before, VirZoom is essentially two things: the exercise-bike peripheral itself, and the software content / account features that accompany it.

The physical bike is based off one of those "xbike" models (that normally cost ~$100-150 + shipping) but it's been specially modified with wider bars at the base (so you can do some serious sideways leaning and not flip the bike over)   game controller handles (each has four face buttons and a trigger, plus some sort of heart-rate sensors on the grip)  sensors to read which direction and how fast you're pedaling, and also the current (manual) tension setting, and a tiny blue-tooth usb dongle to relay that info to your computer.

You should have seen the box it came in, you could seriously fit an entire person in there.  Well, someone shorter than me, at least. The bike's rated as comfortable for people up to 6'2"   (but I'm 6'5" and haven't had any issues!) and safe for people up to 260lbs, and feels VERY sturdy and stable all over.   Weighs about 40lbs, and can be folded to minimize storage space, although for now I'm just leaving it out.  The buttons on the handles look a little cheap and have a little wobble to them, but have a good size and shape to them (no complaints when sliding my thumb from one to another) and make a satisfying click when pressed.  The triggers feel... chewy? Yeah, chewy. They seem responsive enough so I don't have any complaints.

The software, aptly titled VirZoom Arcade, consists of a collection of mini-games specially designed for use with the bike.  Right now there are only about 5 or 6 main games, although each one has different game modes available and the developers plan to add additional games and game modes to the arcade, free of charge, over the lifetime of the product.  Interestingly, some of the games even feature online multiplayer;  Driving a virtual race-car by pedaling and leaning on an exercise bike is already quite the novelty, but doing it in a competitive race against some other person desperately pedaling to try and beat you? That's an awesome concept.

The games as a whole are not the most graphically advanced (Close-by scenery / foreground objects and character models and such are actually fine enough, it's mostly just the backgrounds / map geometry that look several-generations dated), but I didn't find that to detract much from the experience, and each one is pretty simplistic in terms of gameplay, but that's by design;   They each provide a clear, easy-to-understand objective to motivate you to keep pedaling, and because your daily play-time is going to be inherently limited by your physical stamina and you can mix things up by playing a different game each day or a mix of very short sessions of each game in one sitting, you aren't liable to get too bored with any one, and of course once new games are added in that will be even more variety to hold your attention.  At any rate, it's FAR better motivation than just sticking a TV in front of your bike or having some guy yelling encouragement over your shoulder.

So far I've only tried the tutorial and one game-mode each of "Stampede" and "Go Fast Car", but I'll be sure to give my impressions of the other games and game modes as I try them out.

First I did Stampede, in which you play a(n invisible) cowboy, riding through the streets of an infinitely-long western town and lassoing horse-thieves before they could get away.  The lassoing action involves a timing element: looking (somewhere near) a target and holding down the right trigger sends an icon spinning around a circle, you release the trigger when it hits the top 1/3rd or 1/4th of the circle to successfully lasso them  (which sounds easier than it is, especially once you start to tire out!).  Leaning left and right moves your horse sideways so you can position yourself behind bandits, grab items, or avoid... let's just say "hazards"... and there were power-ups that could be grabbed to let me shoot small tornadoes ahead as an alternate means to knock the bandits off their horses.  Between that and the lasso lighting on fire when pulling off consecutive successful lasso attempts, I think I may have been some kind of super-hero sheriff the whole time. :sunglasses:   Every handful of waves, there'd be a bonus round where I had to try and stay behind a swerving, unmanned carriage as it dropped diamonds behind it.   I made it twenty waves into Stampede before climbing off the bike, butt-and-leg-muscles aching and body already drenched in sweat.  No fogging of the Rift lenses, I'm happy to say!

After grabbing some water, I moved on to Go Fast Car, which is Formula 1 racing  (where the drivers all just happen to be happy dogs... labradors, I think).   Pretty straightforward in the mode i tried, which was a race against the AI on a simple 0 shaped track.  Stay in control on the turns, keep your pedaling speed up, and when possible grab power-ups for a speed boost.  Not the most exciting racing game I've played, but it kept me pedaling hard long after I wanted to stop, so mission accomplished there.  This is one of the modes that supports online play, by the way.  After five laps, my legs were rubber (and one was shaking a bit), my butt was sore, and I was so ready to shower the sweat off.  Still no lens fogging, though!  Seriously, I don't think it's even possible to fog the Rift lenses through heat and sweat alone,  I've only had them fog up ONCE since I got my Rift and I think it was because I started Rifting too soon after a shower..


So what else should I mention here?  Well, VirZoom is going to support Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, AND PSVR, but currently the VirZoom Arcade software is only available through Steam but they're working to get it onto Oculus Home as we speak.    VirZoom Arcade also has integrated Pandora radio support, and 'Strava' (whatever that is?)  

Oh, there is (or is going to be) a gamepad emulator to use the bike with non-virzoom games.  I'm definitely looking forward to pedaling my way across Skyrim or the wastelands of Fallout, or using it in some external racing game... pretty much anything where I can use pedaling speed in place of variable joystick input and use it for forward movement, and do the rest of my controls on eight face buttons and two triggers... or hold a gamepad while on the bike.

And the developers are really cool people.  They regularly respond to questions in their forums, are very open to suggestions and community feedback, and reply to support emails very promptly.  They seem to be super enthusiastic about launching the VirZoom product and service and I just really hope they do well, given the risk involved when developing for such a niche market.


One last thing for now, before I leave the thread open to questions and comments:  I know, $400 might sound like a lot for a peripheral (then again, some hotas setups, racewheels, and even gaming chairs can be well over $400) or a piece of exercise equipment but in VirZoom's defense, it's both a peripheral AND a full-fledged piece of exercise equipment, and that price is including the bike, shipping (which is worth like $50 alone, on a 40lb package the size of a small coffin) AND a life-time membership plan to advanced account/software/workout-planning features...

So if you're looking for a unique peripheral-based VR experience AND a way to motivate yourself to get or stay fit, I'd say the $400 is well worth it.   (But to be fair, I got in on a very early promotional offer and only paid $250 for mine. :wink:  )
The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.

Comments

  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    edited July 2016
    Almost forgot, a couple photos I took of mine (Please excuse the messy bachelor pad. Or have fun analyzing the contents, either way.):



    You can find much clearer photos on the official VirZoom website or any of their social media pages, but hey, I can't talk about my hot new toy without taking some pictures of it myself, right? :sunglasses:


    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • edmgedmg Posts: 1,081
    Wintermute
    Thanks for that. I've been wondering when someone would build something like this. VR seems a great way to make an exercise bike far more interesting than just facing the wall when you pedal.
  • Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 3,164 Power Poster
    edited July 2016
    What I want to know is why develop a racing game where you're in cars rather than on motorbikes when using an exercise bike? Are cars cooler than bikes or what?

    Nice write up CrashFu but those pictures make my eyes bleed. :dizzy:


    System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i7 4790K CPU, 16 GB RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.
  • SolslandSolsland Posts: 278
    Nexus 6
    Interesting.  You mention that there is a tensioner on the bike, is this quite a robust set up?  Only ask as I spin a lot and would be interested if it can be set to a relatively tortuous resistance.
  • BilbosmegginsBilbosmeggins Posts: 246 Poster of the Week
    Nice review there, thanks. I was looking at these a few weeks back.  I could well be tempted, but would rather hang fire until the software side of things progresses a little.  I really fancy the idea of a virtual Tour de France, although did quite like the look of the Pegasus-type game that ships with the VirZoom.
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    What I want to know is why develop a racing game where you're in cars rather than on motorbikes when using an exercise bike? Are cars cooler than bikes or what?

    Nice write up CrashFu but those pictures make my eyes bleed. :dizzy:
    $20 phone camera pictures will do that, yep. :lol:

    I believe they do have some bike or motorbike themed games in the works, and yeah it would definitely feel more natural to steer a bike by leaning than to steer a car by leaning.. but I think the whole idea was to do what was least expected, just to make people go "What? That's crazy".

    Solsland said:
    Interesting.  You mention that there is a tensioner on the bike, is this quite a robust set up?  Only ask as I spin a lot and would be interested if it can be set to a relatively tortuous resistance.
    The tension level ranges from 1 to 8, where 1 gives pretty much no resistance at all, and 8? ... pedaling for 20 seconds on level 8 lights my knees on fire, lol.  But then, I'm really out of shape, and 20 minutes on level 3 is enough to rubberize my legs.
    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • nalex66nalex66 Posts: 4,127 Power Poster
    Nice review. I'm not sure that this is the sort of thing I'd buy, but on the other hand, I could do with a little exercise, so the wife would probably encourage it.
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  • jademanjademan Posts: 268
    Nexus 6
    I was this close to ordering one back then, but I guess I never pushed the button. Life happens. Stupid me... now I still want to order one, but can't get over missing the old price. Oh well - guess I'll wait for a sale.

    @CrashFu - Are you playing with a fan pointing at you? No fogging is great! Was much sweat pooling inside the Rift? Or did the handy nose gap (with fan?) cure that? 
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    jademan said:
    I was this close to ordering one back then, but I guess I never pushed the button. Life happens. Stupid me... now I still want to order one, but can't get over missing the old price. Oh well - guess I'll wait for a sale.

    @CrashFu - Are you playing with a fan pointing at you? No fogging is great! Was much sweat pooling inside the Rift? Or did the handy nose gap (with fan?) cure that? 
    Looks like there's a $50 off promo code available if you enter in "VZVIVE" at check-out, according to the steam page.

    And yeah, you'll definitely want to stick a fan in front of you.  I do that most of the time I'm Riftin' anyways, but it's practically mandatory when working out. Plus, it makes the games more fun when you can feel the wind in your face.   I don't think that actually has much to do with the Rift being fog-resistant, though, I think the lenses are just made that way?
    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    edited July 2016
    Update: Day 2 of using the VirZoom!

    Whew, I got in a much longer workout today, trying out the other three (currently available) game modes!  As a side note, I came very close to wrapping the Rift's cable around a pedal while playing, but noticed before any damage could occur.   Really illustrates the importance of keeping your cables out of the way before playing, and in this case draped over something nearby.. Edit: Using the cable clip built onto the bike would probably help, as Eric from VirZoom points out below. :kiss:


    Lord of Tanks - This one is (for the most part) less exercise and more game than most of the other modes, and the game-feel is very satisfying.   You are, of course, piloting a tank across a sprawling, mountainous battlefield and engaging in a free-for-all death-match with other tanks.  AI tanks only have 1 HP, but this game features drop-in-drop-out multiplayer; another VirZoom user could just pop in to the game world at any time, and player tanks have 3 HP and are worth more points.  

    The way the tank crawls over dips and hills looks very smooth and natural, aside from the occasional bit of ground-clipping, or comically ramping off a destroyed tank wreckage.  Like most VirZoom games, you lean to turn and pedal to move (forwards or backwards in this instance), while headlook and one of the triggers fires your cannon. Ammo is infinite but you need a couple seconds between shots.  The projectiles arc and I got the impression they were automatically adjusting vertical trajectory for distance, but you DO have to lead moving targets horizontally.   Nailing a dead-on shot from super far away feels REALLY good.

    This is one of the few games where you can find yourself just sitting still at times, although a sitting tank is an easy target in any PvP situation.  The real workout from LoT will come when you go cruising across the battlefield to intercept / find line-of-sight to far-off targets,  and when travelling up-hill.   VirZoom can not automatically change its own tension, so it just requires you to pedal faster uphill if you want to maintain speed or keep moving at all.  To my delight, I was even able to climb the most sheer cliff-space I could find IF I pedaled like an absolute mad-man. 

    My only complaint is that none of the very scenic terrain obstacles (wrecked buildings, walls, guard towers, etc.) seemed to be destructible, It would be great if I could blow them up to get them out of my way, or better yet just plow the tank right through 'em.  Sadly, it's either go over or go around.

    Pegaso - one of the most talked-about VirZoom games for sure,  I'm not sure what to say about Pegaso except that it manages to provide a steady workout and a very serene, relaxing experience at the same time.  Terrain texture quality aside, it was very scenic, and the random woodland creatures wandering about gave some life to the world.  Quite a selection of game modes for this, from running through checkpoints (easy when you can 'cheat' by spreading your wings and skipping whole sections of the trail... but I think that's the whole point)  to trying to stay mid-air as long as possible by grabbing items, to a relaxed collect-a-thon.. most if not all of these modes support the drop-in-drop-out multiplayer, as I understand it.

    River Run - Well, ON TOP of a combat chopper is the last place I expected to be sitting while pedal-powering it, but strangely enough this vantage point works.  This is perhaps the most arcade-like of any existing VirZoom game so far, as you fly the chopper along a river while collecting fuel barrels and shooting at an endless number of sentry turrets.  There are plenty of hills to swoop around and bridges to fly over or under, and the necessity to keep your rate of pedaling up to stay airborn makes for a steady work-out.   Actually aiming the rockets while pedaling away like that is also quite the challenge, although at the cost of coins earned BY playing, you opt for target-locking homing missiles instead of the default dumb-fire ones.


    I'll have more to say once I try out more of the individual game modes, or when new game types become available.  As I understand it, an early preview of one new mode is due out in the next week or so.  :wink:



    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • buz11buz11 Posts: 13
    NerveGear
    Eric from VirZOOM here--there's a cable clip on the front of the pedal housing to keep the tether away from the cranks. Then run the tether through the center X of the bike, which is better than over the handlebars to avoid drag. Cheers!
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    buz11 said:
    Eric from VirZOOM here--there's a cable clip on the front of the pedal housing to keep the tether away from the cranks. Then run the tether through the center X of the bike, which is better than over the handlebars to avoid drag. Cheers!
    Oh man, I was wondering what that little piece was for. Thanks for pointing it out, I probably never would have realized otherwise, lol.  Maybe there should be a splash page for that when using VirZoom Arcade for the first time, kind of like when you turn on a Wii and it has the page about putting on the wrist strap?

    I'll make sure to use the clip during tomorrow's workout session. Thanks, Eric!
    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • blanesblanes Posts: 1,067 Poster of the Week
    Have fun while it lasts,  I am sure you will,  but this reeks of gimmick and within 12 months you will be using it to hang your ironing on.  A better option would have been a system that takes advantage of already existing exercise bikes and even a rowing machine.  That would have ensured the take-up would be much larger and give more confidence for longevity.  As it is very few, if any, people outside of the U.S. would pay for this.
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    @blanes - Well, I could just sit on the VirZoom bike and use it like a normal exercise bike if I wanted to (because it is one, underneath all of the modifications built in)  but why would I want that?   I've tried exercising in front of the TV and it just can't keep me distracted enough to not get tired of the workout.. or it proves TOO much distraction and I slow down to pay attention to the TV.  Having my exercise tied into a game, and having to finish my workout to complete it and work hard to get a good score, that's a VERY effective source of motivation, something a lazy person like me needs.

    Longevity is going to come in the form of new games added to the collection over its lifetime, and having leaderboards and live multiplayer to compete in.

    And I'm not sure what nationality has to do with anything?  Don't people outside the U.S. like to exercise? :tongue:

    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • buz11buz11 Posts: 13
    NerveGear
    edited July 2016
    @blanes - Adapters for existing bikes sounded good to us too, until we started making them. We were very limited with the number and comfort of buttons, and quality of pedal sensors we could make to fit all bikes. And they required independent wireless transceivers with their own batteries unless you wanted wires taped to your frame, which drove up cost and installation difficulty. Same goes for heartrate and resistance measurement, even on bikes that already have those because they aren't made to tap into. Lastly our bike is lightweight, foldable, and wireless so can easily be near your VR console, unlike a bigger exercise bike in your garage or basement. 

    You didn't mention regular bikes on trainers, but we tried that too, and found they were too unstable and noisy to be used with VR games. We believe the evolution of our bike and games to the best VR exercise and locomotion experience you can have, at a price not much more than a good trainer by itself. Hope you get to try it at a show or store sometime!
  • ziphnorziphnor Posts: 305
    Art3mis
    @buz11
    You dont ship to europe?
    Windows 8.1 | i7 [email protected] | Asus Strix 980 GTX | Asus X99-A motherboard | 32GB DDR4 2133Mhz | 1TB Samsung 840 EV0 SSD | Corsair HX750i PSU
  • buz11buz11 Posts: 13
    NerveGear
    @ziphnor - we took international preorders from all over the world that we're now shipping, but are not taking new ones while completing our move into retail and online stores. Hope to resume soon!
  • blanesblanes Posts: 1,067 Poster of the Week
    I didn't say anything about nationality.  The high cost to ship this outside U.S. is not worth it and the exchange rate makes the total cost ridiculous by compare. It makes no sense to pay such a high cost for an exercise bike that I can buy here in Australia for about $70 for a good one.  This is absolutely a gimmick ie. a short lived device that in a year or so will gather dust. The take-up will be small and nobody else will develop games for it because it just will not be worth it longterm for a game dev. Good luck to you & to be brutally honest, experience tells me this is a short range money spinner.
  • CrashFuCrashFu Posts: 1,399 Poster of the Week
    Well, that certainly was negative. :frowning:
     
    Coincidentally, I've heard people say the exact same things about Virtual Reality in general  (traditional equipment is cheaper, you'll get bored of it soon, nobody will develop for it, etc.);  Here's hoping the pessimism proves incorrect in both cases! :kissing_heart:

    The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media.  And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.
  • ziphnorziphnor Posts: 305
    Art3mis
    blanes said:
    I didn't say anything about nationality.  The high cost to ship this outside U.S. is not worth it and the exchange rate makes the total cost ridiculous by compare. It makes no sense to pay such a high cost for an exercise bike that I can buy here in Australia for about $70 for a good one.  This is absolutely a gimmick ie. a short lived device that in a year or so will gather dust. The take-up will be small and nobody else will develop games for it because it just will not be worth it longterm for a game dev. Good luck to you & to be brutally honest, experience tells me this is a short range money spinner.
    Why so negative? Perhaps i dont care if there wont be any more games made for it. I am interested in actually using it as a fitness device and just need something to make it interesting to exercise.

    I also highly doubt there is much "money spinning" here. Developing something like this is expensive, and as you say the take-up will be small, so the cost will be a bit high (just like for VR games).
    Windows 8.1 | i7 [email protected] | Asus Strix 980 GTX | Asus X99-A motherboard | 32GB DDR4 2133Mhz | 1TB Samsung 840 EV0 SSD | Corsair HX750i PSU
  • blanesblanes Posts: 1,067 Poster of the Week
    edited July 2016
    Negative from your perspective but pragmatic from mine as the reality is I have seen many such peripherals come & go in over 30 years of gaming and I call this as I see it.  Sorry if you feel offended but people need to read balanced opinions on these sort of things.  ;)  Anyway I will keep quiet and you certainly should enjoy it for what it is no matter what.
  • ziphnorziphnor Posts: 305
    Art3mis
    blanes said:
    Negative from your perspective but pragmatic from mine as the reality is I have seen many such peripherals come & go in over 30 years of gaming and I call this as I see it.  Sorry if you feel offended but people need to read balanced opinions on these sort of things.  ;)  Anyway I will keep quiet and you certainly should enjoy it for what it is no matter what.
    Its fair enough being sceptic, and ia m not offended, but i think you were being overly aggressive. You could easily have expressed you concerns in a less confrontational manner.
    Windows 8.1 | i7 [email protected] | Asus Strix 980 GTX | Asus X99-A motherboard | 32GB DDR4 2133Mhz | 1TB Samsung 840 EV0 SSD | Corsair HX750i PSU
  • Bram7584Bram7584 Posts: 1
    NerveGear
    edited November 13
    Now I’m sure I want to buy it for myself. By the way, if someone is looking for an ordinary bicycle, then I advise you to draw your attention to this site with bicycles see this there you can find very good ones.
  • RavengerRavenger Posts: 38
    Brain Burst
    I was wondering when something like this would be done. Personally, I think it's a great idea, and would love to get one at some point. (if the cost were reasonable in the UK) One of the problems I found with a regular exercise bike is the boredom, and that if I did watch TV I would slow down. This solves that brilliantly. I'd love to go for a cycle ride in Skyrim. B)
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