Black Box VR plans to open a boutique, high-tech gym

Distract your brain while building muscle.

When I was in high school, my workout regimen involved marching band, Denise Austin VHS tapes and copious rounds of Dance Dance Revolution. Not only did I play DDR in bowling alleys and arcades whenever I had the chance, but I had a metal dance pad at home (PlayStation 2 with a converter to make it run on my Xbox 360). Late last year, a decade after graduating from high school, I bought a plastic dance pad and busted out my PS3 just to play DDR again, with the idea of incorporating it into my workout routine.

Which is to say, I'm no stranger to the idea of video games as exercise. Neither is Black Box VR.

Black Box VR is taking this idea to a ridiculous new level using HTC Vive and proprietary exercise hardware that turns working out into an immersive, competitive video game -- or it turns video games into a workout, depending on your perspective.

Black Box VR intends to open its first boutique gym this year in San Francisco (think SoulCycle, but with more VR headsets), and the demo it brought to CES is a bite-size example of what it plans to offer. Patrons will step into a literal black box, no bigger than 8 feet by 8 feet, and strap on an HTC Vive headset and motion-tracking forearm bands. And then the game begins: You're standing in the middle of a stadium packed with cheering fans, facing oncoming attackers and, eventually, giant mythical creatures. You throw projectiles at the enemies by doing standing chest presses. The crowd cheers, the score ticks up and it's all a lot of fun. In the demo, the tension ramps up rapidly to demonstrate the system's ability to dynamically add weight over time as players get stronger.

Eventually, Black Box VR wants to add the ability for players to compete live against other people working out across the world, but for now the company plans to incorporate user profiles and local leaderboards into the gym.

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