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Behind the Scenes
Preston Lewis, Black Box Photo courtesy Black Box.
Preston Lewis, one of the co-founders of Black Box, demonstrates how the product is used.

CES 2018 Was a 'Virtual' Feast for the Fitness Fanatic

Virtual reality workouts were a hit at CES 2018. Some of the offerings may be new competitors or new allies for brick and mortar health club operators.

Your newest competitor may just be a virtual reality studio down the street. Or virtual reality in general. That's part of what I took away from the CES 2018 event last week (Jan. 9-12) in Las Vegas.

If you have never been to CES, which is put on by the Consumer Technology Association, you likely can't imagine how overwhelming the show is. This year's event was my first one, and the size of the show, spread throughout multiple hotels and convention centers around the Strip, was impressive as was the amount of fitness-related sessions and exhibitors. (No numbers have been released yet on 2018 attendance, but 2017 attendance was slightly north of 184,000 people.)

I admit that I did not see even a quarter of the products that I wanted to, so I cannot offer a comprehensive view of the show. However, three of the most interesting products were the treadmill from Peloton, the Icaros virtual reality product and a new virtual reality gym.

Let's start with what could be seen as your newest competitor or your newest ally—Black Box. Black Box is a virtual reality gym. Yes, a gym. Not just a virtual reality product, but an actual boutique studio where people will go for 30-minute virtual reality workouts, mainly focused on resistance training. The user puts on a virtual reality headset and some bands around their arms, legs or whichever part of the body is being worked out in the selected game. The game integrates an electronically controlled cable system, allowing for the exerciser's use of ropes or handles to trigger a reaction in the VR game. Here's an article that describes the use of this product even further, as I was not able to experience this CES 2018 Best Startup award winner for myself.

All that users need are three 40-minute sessions per week to meet their goals, according to the company. The equipment and the game respond to the user's resistance and intensity needs.

Black Box is coming to flagship locations in Manhattan, New York, and Beverly Hills, California, with plans to franchise, according to the company's website. The company also is offering licensing opportunities for health club owners who want to add this option into their own clubs.

Another virtual reality-oriented find at CES was a gyroscope from Icaros, a German company. One of the products is available for commercial health clubs (setting you back about $9,000 each), but the company also just released a product for home use. The commercial product requires a trainer to show the user how to get on and off initially, but then it can be used by the individual on their own or can be used as part of a training session. 

Photo by Pamela Kufahl

German company Icaros introduced its virtual reality gyroscope product to the United States at this year's CES event in Las Vegas.

Users strap on Samsung Gear virtual reality goggles and jump on the gyroscope, which requires them to be in a plank position. As the user goes through the virtual reality experience, they must move the gyroscope as part of the game, causing them to work out major muscle groups. Several virtual reality experiences are available. The company is introducing Icarace where users can race against others virtually. 

Peloton also made a splash at the show by introducing a treadmill. Yes, the on-demand home bike workout experience company now is offering live and on-demand workouts at home for treadmills—and like with its bikes, it also sells its own treadmills, which retail for about $4,000.

Called the Peloton Tread, the product has a 32-inch high-definition touchscreen through which users can access classes offered live from instructors in the company's New York City location or on-demand. If you already felt some heat from the company's virtual bike classes and its yoga classes, you may feel even more heat from this one. The company had announced in June that it would be offering virtual classes for other equipment soon, so this launch is likely of little surprise to most people.

If you haven't gotten enough of virtual reality and fitness, retired boxer Floyd Mayweather also introduced a virtual reality training program at his Floyd Mayweather Boxing + Fitness Clubs, an announcement his company made at CES last week. Mayweather serves as the virtual boxing coach, leading participants through a 12-week, cardio- and skill-based training experience. 

I wasn't the only person from the fitness industry at the show. I chatted with Brandon Bean, CEO of Gold's Gym, along with Adam Zeitsiff, Gold's Gym CIO. I also spoke to Dave Hardy, partner at Orangetheory, and several members of the Orangetheory team. And I saw Mike Leveque, COO of Myzone, too. I'm sure there were more of you there, so give a shout out in the comments section if you attended CES and share what products or sessions you found most interesting.  


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