Challenge 7 – VeRg: Erging with Virtual RealityVeRg makes erging fun and exciting through the use of VRStaying fit and healthy is a problem for everyone who lacks the discipline and motivation to work out. Our product also makes working out more enjoyable and more productive for those who may possess that discipline and motivation, but who do not enjoy their time working out (66% of those we surveyed found cardio exercise at the gym boring, and almost 90% of respondents do other activities while using cardio equipment). We want to make that time more accessible and fun. The people we surveyed listed playing a game (23%) and following a course (26%) as additions that would add the most value to their cardio exercise experience, making these options worth pursuing. For more serious rowers, we simply want to make erging and training more exciting, more competitive (through racing), and, ideally, more productive. This improvement in productivity is an empirically proven possibility: according to a recent overview of VR exercise research, Huang et al. find that “VR feedback actually enables anaerobic exercise for longer duration by reducing perceived exertion.” More impressively, these studies were done on significantly outdated VR equipment; as such, any improvement on 2008-era devices would be greatly magnified by the massive improvements in VR technology since before the Oculus Kickstarter. Moreover, studies suggest that connecting realistic video of any sort to an erg workout – let alone a VR experience – would dramatically improve the productivity of the workout by simultaneously decreasing the user’s perceived exertion level and increasing his or her overall power output.Our research shows that serious rowers and casual couch potatoes alike find working out (and specifically erging) quite boring. Virtual reality is the solution. When empirically examining VR’s effect on people’s psychological reactions to exercise, researchers found that “VR coupled with exercise enhanced enjoyment and energy while reducing tiredness.” Solving this problem matters because everyone wants to be healthy; ideally, they are, particularly since being healthy correlates with being happy. As such, at the most foundational level, people want to want to exercise. Unfortunately, motivational constraints that are functions of the technical antiquity of current fitness products makes this goal difficult to realize.We are starting in the relatively niche area of indoor rowing to show how VR can be used to make training and working out fun (and to increase the amount of working out that people do). The success of this one product can be extrapolated to the other products in the fitness space, which could mix VR with treadmills, bikes, stair machines, etc. to allow users to operate those products in other built-out virtual worlds.GamificationOne explanation for why working out is so difficult is that it occurs well beneath BJ Fogg’s “Action Line” as described in his Behavior Model, particularly because exercising is often characterized by extremely low ‘ability’ (it is hard to do). Moreover, while in the long term many people may feel they are motivated to hit the gym, at any given moment in time their motivation is fairly low, particularly when compared to other less strenuous activities. To remedy this situation and get people who hate working out to the gym, we use the benefits of VR as described above to slightly increase users’ ability (to recap, VR makes working out feel easier). More importantly, we heavily boost users’ motivation to use cardio machines by making these experiences gamified and social, in the process making them more fun and more distracting. With higher motivation and ability, we can then activate users via social, competitive triggers such as invites to race. To gamify the VR experience, we are using an endless runner model of game in which the faster you row in real life, the faster you move your virtual boat and the more rapidly you can collect coins and therefore points. This model of game can be played for any period of time, which gives users the flexibility and freedom to workout at their own pace and for their desired duration. By introducing coins, we hope to further distract users from the pain of their work out and instead use the machine as a tool to help them more quickly rack up points and place higher on the leaderboard.To introduce as many triggers as possible, we also hope to capitalize on the ultra-important social aspect of working out (which our survey takers were quite interested in and is one of a few proven ways of getting people to the gym). Previously separated individual rowers will now be able to race each other — regardless of whether they are friends or strangers with a common desire to compete. Short of real-time competition, users can also augment the competitive nature of their experience by racing against a virtual pace boat (moving at the speed of a principal competitor like the Yale eight-man or your own personal record, for instance). Experience


The screens we have presented here give a walkthrough of using a gamified VR experience. The first screen is the home screen of the game, after which we show scenes from an actual game. The participant rows through the world we have created, collecting coins along the way. As they row, they are able to access various metrics and compare them to their own PR and that of a competitor. We also show the social component of the game, since a friend challenges the participant part way through the game. After the participant accepts the challenge, the game resets, and the two race against each other, and our original participant wins.

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