BitGym and Virtual Active Team Up for a New App
In the tech world an unanticipated use case occurs when innovators build their own projects on already useful technology. It’s how Virtual Active: BitGym Edition, a new fitness app released today, came about. The iOS app takes into account a user’s workout intensity through a sensor built into mobile Apple devices. The accelerometer was originally included in the device so that the screen could automatically adjust to horizontal and vertical displays.
BitGym, a gaming startup, wrote algorithms that work with the sensor to correlate actual workout speed with virtual game speed. That’s then combined with Netpulse’s Virtual Active, a video that virtually transports users through different settings including the Swiss Alps, Venice and the Grand Canyon. Users rest their mobile device on a cardio workout machine like a bike or treadmill, and as they pedal or run, the landscape moves around them. The apps, which are free to try, cost $7.99.
BitGym founder Alex Gourley took the original idea that inspired this app to the Bay Area Maker Faire in May. There he used Xbox games to demonstrate that vibrations from exercise could power motion simulation. “But the challenge from there was finding something that was marketable,” Gourley said. “You can’t sell hacked up Xbox controllers.”
Virtual Active (recently acquired by Netpulse) is the first partner to help BitGym market the technology, and a second app that combines BitGym with the car racing game OutRun is on the way. That app, called Fit Freeway works similarly to Virtual Active but employs an extra iOS capability; an internal camera is used to detect motion so exercisers can move their heads to steer the game while pedaling on an exercise bike.
“This release is especially noteworthy ― not just because it’s really fun ― but because it took a real minimum of development effort to get out the door. We took an existing game and just added our SDK to it to create this hybrid exercise video game,” Gourley said in the BitGym demo video.
BitGym anticipates that this won’t be the last of its collaborations. The company plans to open up its software development kit so others can come up with their own exercise games based on the technology.
BitGym originally designed its apps to promote fitness. It aims to make a workout so entertaining, you don’t even realize you’re doing it. But recently Gourley has been approached by others who think there could be clinical use for BitGym’s technology as well. One idea is for an app that uses the motion sensor technology to help physical rehabilitation patients correctly perform and track their daily exercises as they do them in front of a camera.
Outside ideas like these are why BitGym intends to open its SDK. This original unanticipated use case might lead to other unanticipated uses.