The VR Health Movement

More movement, less food. This is the mantra of tried and tested advice when it comes to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. But we all know that this simple instruction is easier said than done.

What if your weight is influenced by the fact that you’re one of the many people who get paid to sit for long hours for a living? A transport driver, a courier, a writer, a receptionist, or maybe an enthusiastic gamer. It is, in fact, this last career choice that could be the key to unlocking your more svelte, inner identity, particularly if you prefer to monitor your body through a virtual, rather than a palpable reality.

The beauty of the VR fitness movement is the ability it gives you to experience stimulating and rewarding workout experiences in the comfort of your chosen surroundings. Although some may feel that there’s no substitute for the real life adrenaline rush of tangible experiences, it could make weight loss success stories like that of Jaime Staples a more common reality. The competitive element of Jaime’s challenge to weigh the exact same as his brother carries over into VR fitness. The introduction of competitive activities within the world of VR get you up and moving your body whilst also engaging your brain. With easier access to motivational and engaging fitness content via VR, people are more likely to want to work out more and therefore stay in shape!

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Still, even a modest gym practice can be a no-no to many who may find the likes of the treadmill or the bench press a bit of a bore. The rush that can be gained from the virtual world of fitness comes about when imagination and immersive experience creates an alternative level of body challenge. Advocates of VR health programs have included the likes of Job Stauffer – a U.S.-based video game worker – who, as a one-time 300-pound gamer, used an HTC Vive headset to hit on the rhythm game, which is perfect for getting the heart rate up in VR.

Essentially, he hit incoming targets to the sound of a beat, with music uploaded via YouTube. In this game, videos appear on a large screen, with “missiles” coming toward you from different heights.

The game can be pretty competitive with personalized workout routines – which is what Stauffer intended – for users out with a digital punch bag that maps all impacts by converting all punches to points.

It’s all good fun, but what if you’re less physical and more tapped into reshaping your body through what you do or don’t put into it?

The aptly titled Project Nourish asks on its minimalistic website, “what if you can eat anything you want without regret?” and answers the question with the introduction of a gastronomical virtual reality experience that allows you to “experience dining in a whole new way without caloric intake.” The idea is to maintain taste, smell, and touch while only eating pizzas, pasta, and carb-rich platters, but also sustainable foods in wild environments. This can be done with apps that allow anything from remote communal dining across continents to fictional foods eaten while floating above the clouds.

More than just a means toward sustenance, the Project Nourish food is really about pleasurable dining experiences. So, how does it work? It’s essentially a system that features a virtual reality headset for simulating vision, an aromatic diffuser for producing smell, a bone conduction transducer for creating chewing sounds and vibration, a gyroscopic utensil for manipulating virtual and physical foods, a 3D printed algae cube for adding taste and texture, and a virtual cocktail glass for mimicking intoxication.

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Chefs, graphic artists, food scientists, sensory perception researchers, and even musicians are part of the team, the essence being to create food tastes without the textures so that simulated eating experiences can be had in a range of soothing audio and visual environments without the calorie intake and potential regret. Is this the way forward? Who knows, but as far as eating in or out goes, this definitely provokes curiosity.

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