It’s fair to say that by now most of us are aware of the capabilities and potential of virtual reality headsets. There are actually dozens of devices at this point that can work with smartphones, gaming systems, and PCs to facilitate virtual reality. But the high-end headsets in particular – namely the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Oculus Rift – are doing some pretty astounding things. These devices, coupled with high-powered PCs and consoles, are able to render incredibly realistic environments, characters, and elements, making virtual worlds that aren’t just vaguely lifelike, but wholly convincing.
Most of these VR achievements have been in gaming. While there are plenty of other areas in which VR is both interesting and important, gaming is proving to represent the true measure of the technology’s progress. The bigger, better, and more convincing new games look, the more impressed people will be with virtual reality. And to that point, we’ve seen some pretty astounding titles among 2017’s best VR games so far. To The Top invites players to leap and climb through a fascinating animated city; Star Trek: Bridge Crew allows you to help pilot a starship; and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard offers a full-fledged horror scape survival test.
The better these experiences get, however, the more likely it is that developers will confidently venture into other areas with virtual reality. And one genre to keep an eye on is that of sports and exercise, which could ultimately affect cycling enthusiasts. To this point, there has actually been relatively little crossover between VR and sports. Though we’re starting to see some hints of the connection, with thanks to (of course) gaming. Perhaps most notably, some online sites have begun to design virtual sports that can be viewed and bet on – potentially in VR. One such game, focusing on tennis, is said to represent the largest motion capture project ever undertaken for a virtual sports game.
That at least tackles the idea of sports viewership in VR. Sports performance is trickier, because most sports demand a great deal of mobility that just isn’t popular with in-home VR. This is where cycling appears to be the perfect fit, however. It’s one of very few sporting activities that demands nothing in terms of actual bodily movement from one point to another. In fact, cycling may even be unique in this respect; even horseback riding involves more jolting and management of body position.
At this point, you probably get where we’re headed! A VR headset can be used, and used fairly easily, to transform a home exercise bike into one that can tour the world. In fact, earlier this year we found out about a private game developer who created an app which allows you to cycle anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home! He calls it Cycle VR, and while it hasn’t yet been perfected for public use, it – and a few programs like it – are clearly indications of what’s to come.
This is still one area in which a lot of people will resist VR’s influence. There’s nothing that beats actually getting out into the world, feeling the fresh air, and seeing the sights on a great cycling route. But just as it’s changed gaming and begun to trickle into sports, VR is coming for physical activity next. And it could give us all the chance to pedal along roads we might never have the opportunity to see in person.