The VR game, Beat Saber, has garnered a huge online following driving lots of downloads and VR headset sales, and its popularity has also played a big part in developing the new Oculus Quest’s tracking system, making sure that new tech can handle the game’s advanced modes.
So, what exactly is Beat Saber?
The concept is simple: players have two ‘sabers’ (which do actually feel like you are holding them due to the motion controllers that come with the VR headsets). As boxes fly towards the player, they use the sabers to rhythmically slice them in sequences that vary in height, width and sequential complexity, in the direction of the arrows. So, to play the game, you have to really get moving – anecdotal evidence suggesting that people were feeling fitter and losing weight through playing – some, more than 20-30 pounds since the game released.
However, fun, not a workout, was the original aim of the game so it seems to have had the inadvertent bonus of combining fitness and fun. It’s easy to fit into a daily routine, doesn’t require the commitment of joining a gym or club and it can be done at home at an individual’s own pace making it popular among people who are trying to overcome health problems or injury.
Other VR games have workouts designed by fitness instructors with fitness deliberately as the priority. BoxVR is a physically focused VR game in which cues travel towards you and you ‘hit’ with hooks, crosses, jabs and uppercuts – plus optional added squats and dodges.
The power of VR immersion to enhance fitness is interesting, but there are certain safety considerations too.
Firstly, players must remember that they are in a virtual environment and not a real one, so they need enough clear space and remove potentially dangerous obstacles. Secondly, as with any sport, stretching, hydration and recovery time is essential. Mindful of safety, Beat Saber and BoxVR both show health and safety warnings prior to playing.
Though the use of VR technology to workout isn’t new in some gyms, the appeal of games like Beat Saber and BoxVR is that anyone with a VR headset can play them at home – and as the price of VR headsets come down, working out in VR will become ever more accessible to more people.