The stereotypical online gamer is a couch potato slamming Red Bull and only occasionally getting up to refill their snack supply. Of course, like most stereotypes, this one doesn’t apply to everyone. And in 2006, Nintendo changed gaming by introducing the Wii
. Wii encouraged gamers to get off of their chairs and use their body motion to control gameplay in a video game.
In 2012, Peloton introduced an internet-enabled stationary bike that streams live and recorded exercise programs to the bike’s built-in 22-inch touchscreen. The Peloton craze soon carried over to other connected exercise equipment and appliances, such as Lululemon’s Mirror
Then in 2020, COVID-19 closed gyms and prompted a home fitness boom. That change created big opportunities, but it led to big challenges, too. While the pandemic initially did wonders for Peleton’s subscriber base, the company has since had to account for the return of in-person activities as well as a much broader competitive landscape, and the company is aggressively exploring new ways to differentiate itself.
”Peloton now needs to compete effectively not only against other home exercise equipment and fitness streaming companies, but also against in-person activities like gyms, spin classes, and countless other exercise experiences.” -- The Motley Fool
Peloton’s Lanebreak is an Entry Point into Gaming
”Our team has always been fascinated by opportunities beyond video. This has led us to experiment with new formats, and we are excited to share that …we’ve been testing an early iteration of an experience that sits at the intersection of gaming and fitness.” -- Peloton
Lanebreak is an interactive game, controlled using the Peloton Bike. Riders race along a virtual track and face multiple obstacles, synchronized to the beat of a music soundtrack. Players control their speed by pedaling and can change lanes using the resistance knob. Peloton hopes Lanebreak, and possibly other games, will attract new audiences
as well as encouraging current members to spend more time on their bikes to help the company maintain the COVID bump.
“Companies see that they need various content offerings to keep people in their apps longer.” -- Ashley Carman for The Verge
For the gaming industry, using a bike as a game controller
is a step forward into a more immersive gaming experience. It is easy to imagine combining the bike controller with a VR headset, giving players a 360-degree view of their environment, including other players. A player could cycle the Tour de France course against other cyclists, fly a pedal-powered aircraft, or build a custom cycle course.
Imagine using the Peloton Bike controller to virtually race the Tour de France.
Which Other Online Fitness Games are a Precursor to the Metaverse?
While Peloton’s Bike Controller is a significant step forward, it is not the only game in town. Other manufacturers, including Zwift, Nintendo, and Supernatural, offer online fitness games.
is most similar to Peloton’s Lanebreak, but it is not the same. Zwift does use a stationary bike as the controller, but Lanebreak’s environment is abstract, while Zwift uses CGI environments that are familiar to most RPG gamers. Some are virtual renderings of real places—such as Paris—while others are fantasy worlds.
is an accessory for the Nintendo Switch game controller. Players control the game by moving and deforming the flexible ring. Ring is a very different experience from the Peloton Bike, but it can be used to play a variety of games.
is a game using the Oculus VR headset and hand controllers. Like Lanebreak, the Supernatural environment is more stylized than Zwift or Ring Fit Adventure; however, because it is a VR environment, it may well be closer to what the metaverse will be like than the other games discussed in this article.
In Supernatural, players use two sabers—moved using the hand controllers—to bat away circular objects flying at them. Players must duck to avoid the triangular-shaped objects. The beat of the soundtrack controls the motion in the game. It can be a taxing upper body workout when the objects come at players fast.
While interactive fitness games are still in the early stages, the potential for innovative ways to control games is intriguing.
Opportunities For Fitness in the Metaverse
What Will the Metaverse Feel Like?
Given advancements in sensing and monitoring technology, we are finally at the point where participants in the real world can capture motion, voice, and more, and reproduce it in a virtual world.
Devices such as stationary bikes can transmit speed. Wearables capture heartbeat, respiration, and body temperature. Motion sensors capture movement. Even limited devices, like cell phones, can detect if a person is walking on level ground or climbing stairs. Cameras can capture and analyze full-body motion, similar to what you see when watching the Fox show Alter Ego
The above examples illustrate how you can reproduce the real world in the virtual world, but you can also take virtual experiences into the real world in the metaverse. For example, resistance on a stationary bike can increase as you head up a virtual hill. Tension on cables can increase to simulate lifting heavier virtual weights. You can hear background noises and the voices of other people in your headphones. It is even possible to translate between languages as people speak.
In the metaverse, you could work with an exercise physiologist on the other side of the country, and she would have more information about your body than if she were standing next to you.
So, even with current technology, amazing things are possible in the metaverse. You could dance at a virtual concert on another planet with two moons. You could dance to the music in your living room, and your avatar could make the same moves on a distant planet. You could race your bicycle in Japan against opponents from all over the world. You could work with a trainer in South Africa to help you perfect your workout. You could even play on a baseball team with players from nine different countries. These are just a few of the fitness-related experiences that the metaverse could bring to your living room.
What Can Other Companies Learn From Peloton’s Approach To Interactive Fitness?
If your company makes a fitness product, you should consider the metaverse in your five-year plan. Think about how you can enhance the user experience by being partially or fully in the metaverse. Here are a few of the lessons that we can glean from Peloton’s early experience.
The metaverse should be on your five-year plan, but you shouldn’t wait five years to start. Begin thinking about what your customer can use and enjoy immediately. If you start developing now, like Peloton has, you can start gaining the benefits and be perfectly positioned when the metaverse arrives.
Don’t wait to plan for the metaverse. Begin developing today for real-time applications.
Use Games to Make Your Product More Entertaining
Much of the fitness market is built around what people should do for their health. Peloton is looking at what will make people want to use its products beyond its already impressive instructor-led programs. A compelling game that people want to play can make your product a necessary part of the game. A well-executed gaming experience can make your equipment seem like a dessert rather than vegetables.
Make Your Customers Part of Your Development Process
Peloton is leveraging a robust design process that involves the customer. Rather than guessing what customers want, Peloton produces a version of the game every two weeks and shares it with a group of real customers. The company then uses feedback from those customers to decide what to change or add to the game in the next two weeks. Peloton gets a game that customers want to play by repeating this process consistently.
Think Big, Start Small
Peloton is undoubtedly looking forward to immersive games for the metaverse in its five-year plan. However, the company started with something simple. Lanebreak is just a wheel rolling down a three-lane track. The game is something that Peloton could produce relatively quickly, and its customers can enjoy it sooner rather than waiting. This immediate solution also means that Peloton can start earning revenue earlier. Having a simple game lets Peloton engineers focus on fundamentals, such as integrating the equipment and responsiveness. The company can work on world-building and quest storylines later.
How to Position Your Real-Time Application for Success
If you are contemplating or working on a connected fitness product, there are some things you must do to ensure success. To compete today, and in the metaverse in the future, limitations that we have come to expect on the internet can no longer be tolerated. Users will no longer accept web pages that load in tens of seconds, or updates that take minutes to complete. Right now, for two-way communications and in the coming metaverse, users need a virtual experience that is as responsive as in person. That is real-time responsiveness.
Lanebreak is an initial experiment for Peloton, but it demonstrates that Peloton’s leaders understand that they need to always be innovating if they are going to stay at the front in a competitive world.
Position Your Application for Maximum Performance Now and in the Future
Here are a few things you can do at the outset that will ensure success:
Ensure that your local network is not slowing you down—test your local network and remove any bottlenecks
Choose the right protocols to maximize performance—for real-time applications, using the right protocols is essential. RTP, SIP, TURN, and WebRTC can be the competitive edge you need.
Run your application on the fastest network
Now that you are in control of your own network, it is time to take control of the internet. Subspace
is changing everything. Subspace’s groundbreaking real-time network infrastructure and services platform provide the lowest latency, most reliable, real-time, and fully controllable network possible for the world’s biggest applications. On Subspace, real-time applications see an expansion in usable latency, larger user pools, reduced user churn, and broader geographic reach—leading to a steep uptick in engagement across the applications’ ecosystem.