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May 12, 2021

4 min read

Running in VR? From none to fun!

Running in VR? From none to fun!

To a part of our population, any form of working out is natural. Humans strive to stay healthy, fit and just generally feel good about themselves. The feeling you get after you’re done running for instance, it’s like your own body is rewarding you for taking good care of it, and some people are hooked on it. On the other side, there are those who just need a bit more nudging to move. This is where virtual reality comes in handy.

Some time back, the team behind A1 Telecom reached out to us with an unusual inquiry — to create a virtual reality running experience. Although it seemed like a fantastic idea, there were some obstacles to overcome first, and in this blog, we will run through the whole process of creating a full package for our clients.

Treadmill or an elliptical

It all started with the idea of a treadmill, but as the idea grew, we became aware you can’t just place a person on a treadmill and put a VR headset on its head. The chances are, it would end up badly. The whole project needed a different approach, so another idea of using an elliptical trainer was brought up. The elliptical trainer or simply put cross-trainer is made of handlebars and foot pedals, and as it stays firmly on the ground, it is much more secure in the form of stability while you still get to simulate running. The next step was to determine the exact speed from an elliptical to the VR application since elliptical trainers don’t really offer Unity-supported software development kits. This needed a little bit of tweaking and some good old disassembling.

The fun part

In order to get what we needed the team agreed to set the whole thing in pieces, while the main focus was on the elliptical wheel in the back. The goal was to determine how to connect to it in order to get the data about speed.
Sometimes the solution seems more complicated than it really is, and the inspiration was found in classical bike speedometers. The sensor was placed across a fixed light source (LED). To measure the data, an Arduino controller with an attached light sensor and LED lamp was used. A small light obstructor (cardboard piece) was placed on the wheel. We counted the rotation speed depending on the interval and how frequently the light source was broken in a second. This made it possible to measure the speed data needed for the VR app to work properly.

Running in VR scheme

All the great stuff about VR Running

All of this data made it possible for us to develop a perfectly safe, fun and unique VR running experience. Once you put the VR glasses on, you are in a fantastic place that can be tailor-made to the client’s needs. Imagine running surrounded by stunning landscapes, unique and wondrous nature, and perhaps even other planets. Running on Proxima B might not be that far at all! Drop-dead gorgeous nature isn’t the only thing one can create. You can participate in competitions with other characters or animals. This is a magical world on its own with you in it.

Problem-solving approach

Even though the challenge may sometimes seem incredibly complex, if laid out right, the solution to it is but a simple experiment. Our team is all about problem-solving and projects like the one successfully completed for A1 really showed how amazing VR technology can be. We got to create something completely different, new, innovative, and most of all — fun! In fact, by running in VR you get a decent amount of workout without even noticing you are doing it. This might just be a game changer for those who aren’t really in love with the idea of working out in any way.

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