Fitness fanatics Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis share an impressive resume; we like to imagine that somewhere on the page, “built an empire” is listed in bolded font. The two spent years growing the world’s largest online supplement retailer, bodybuilding.com, an enterprise that today grosses five hundred million — yes, half a billion dollars — in annual sales. Working in collaboration with some of the best and brightest talents in the business, DeLuca and Lewis created several of the biggest brand names on the supplement market, as well as chart-topping fitness mobile apps. They’ve also amassed over three million followers across their social platforms.
Their passion for physical fitness seems to fuel a drive for bigger and better things. The two men, not satisfied with having built one empire, are hoping to build a second.
In 2016, DeLuca and Lewis tried virtual reality for the first time and immediately knew that this immersive technology held a world of possibility for the fitness realm. When paired with resistance training, gaming principles, and high intensity cardio, VR was full of untapped and exciting potential for those working towards healthier lives. And so DeLuca and Lewis set about “redefining fitness as we know it” with Black Box VR, the world’s first virtual reality gym experience.
Plans are currently in place to open flagship Black Box VR gyms in Manhattan and Beverly Hills. These boutique locations will allow visitors to step into a room with a custom headset and watch the world transform around them. Think of it like being dropped into a video game — one in which your body is the controller, and you are the hero.
In this room, an integrated cable pulley system is controlled by the virtual reality engine, providing muscle and strength-building resistance for the entire body. Reach for a rope or the handle of a trunk within the game, and your hands will find the pulley. It’s this mixed reality approach, says the company, that will set Black Box apart. “Some VR workouts in the future will include basic features, like having your virtual trainer with you who is guiding you through a body weight workout similar to Wii Fit. We don’t believe that is enough.” Their answer? “Functional fitness in a fictional world.”
Instant force change capabilities and targeted intensity builders make this a bespoke workout specifically tailored to your body’s needs. Here your speed, strength, and endurance are put to the test, and unlike traditional fitness routines with future rewards and far-off incentives, like losing ten pounds or hitting a new benchmark, the reward here is immediate. That, argues the company, is how good habits are formed; it feels good to feel good.
The company also flat-out refutes the idea that gain requires pain. “Traditional fitness experiences are like torture,” Black Box stresses. “You focus on the pain of each rep or step. The clock ticks by so slowly you wonder if it’s actually working.” Black Box VR, on the other hand, provides a workout that is both motivating and yes, even fun. The technology helps to bridge the gap between actual effort and perceived effort; an effort of one hundred percent, they claim, will feel like only sixty percent, meaning that thirty minutes will seem to pass as quickly as ten.
The game itself promises a somewhat traditional premise: the hero is a warrior combatting enemies on the field, breaking through gates, attacking an enemy tower, or destroying the enemy crystals. Muscle groups are represented by elements; the chest and shoulders are earth/fire, the back and biceps are air, and the legs are water. Working these muscle groups will prompt corresponding special effects in the game — for instance, a leg workout will create a water effect.
In this world, you’re only as strong as your weakest link; the level of your weakest muscle group determines your overall rank, encouraging and pushing the user to maintain a well-rounded fitness routine. And, knowing that the rush of a win or a gain is excellent incentive, the designers have packed the Black Box arena with power-ups, upgrades, and reward boxes.
It seems fitting that an untapped application for this technology should be the answer to a body’s untapped potential. “You’ve heard stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children,” says the company. “Your body has abilities that aren’t easily accessible…until now.” In this game, the brain’s perception of threats and danger have a direct effect on the body, pushing it to new limits. Forget previous plateaus — this workout is designed to raise the bar altogether.
While the game is still in beta testing, plans for the Black Box rollout will include licensing opportunities for large gym chains, as well as franchising opportunities for those who would like to operate their own Black Box locations. Eager to learn more and experience Black Box for yourself? Visit the company website and sign up to receive updates and even become a beta tester. The future of fitness awaits.
Images via Black Box VR.