IMAGE VIA BLACK BOX VR | FACEBOOK
As the lines between VR (virtual reality) and real-life experiences continue to blur in a digital age, it was only a matter of time before someone—or, in this case, a forward-thinking duo—would turn your daily workout into a video game.
Only in San Francisco would such a crossover not only be viable but incredibly popular. Nestled in the hustle and bustle of Mid-Market, Black Box VR—the world’s first VR-immersed fitness studio—opened its flagship store in March 2019. Created by Bodybuilding.com executives, founder Ryan DeLuca and creative director Preston Lewis, the brand is as much about technology as it is science-backed strength training and HIIT. Though, for most people, it would be hard to picture what a virtual gym experience might look like, so allow us to paint the picture:
IRL exercisers are each given a solo 10'-by-10’ room to get sweaty in, each complete with its own VR headset and other wearable devices that’ll not only track hand and body motions but also measure body measurements like heart and metabolic rates, body temperature, and more. The workouts are performed on the company's proprietary resistance training machine, which happens to exist in the game as well.
“One key differentiator is our patent-pending dynamic resistance machine that is specifically designed to deliver real resistance in a virtual environment,” Lewis mentioned in a press release. "The dynamic resistance machine is mapped in the virtual environment so when you reach out to grab a virtual handle, you are actually grabbing the handle in the real world—you can feel it."
Altogether, there are 14 “boxes” in the studio, and most workouts last about a half hour.
The game itself features a hero’s journey through an alien world, where the warrior units (the exercisers) perform movements with real resistance to inflict direct damage to opposing forces. In a nutshell, the more of the enemy’s crystals you destroy in each round, the more points you will earn — and harder workout you’ll endure! Also, if you performed well enough, you’ll move up the studio’s leaderboard and grab the bragging rights that come along with that ascent.
The space—sitting inside Fox Plaza and boasting opaque doors, purple-hued lighting, and a litany of inspiration neon signage—couldn’t be more different than any other fitness studio on the block. Sure, the San Francisco design staples are there (a minimalistic lobby space, clinically-clean and white countertops, and nods to Apple stores), but it’s world’s apart from, say, SoulCycle’s white-clad boutiques.
And the flagship’s specific location was no coincidence, either. “It is a premier location for the headquarters of some of the largest technology companies [like Twitter, Uber, and Square] in the world," Preston Lewis, co-founder of Black Box VR, said to ABC7 News. “Hopefully [we’ll expand] worldwide.”
For now, Black Box will be starting out selling a limited number of "Hero Access Passes" that are first-come, first-served. Each pass is $199/month to take as many classes as you’d like and includes access to the gym’s yet-to-be-released in-game tracking app.
As eSports and virtual reality continue to pick up steam, not only in the Bay Area but around the globe, look for Black Box to fine-tune their machines and expand their digital world. And when you’re ready to book a box, get down to 1390 Market St., next to Starbucks and across the street from Twitter.
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