Moving it and losing it in PowerBeatsVR

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COVID-19 broke my new year’s resolution of showing up to the gym.  

It was only a matter of time until I felt the onset of recovery and inactivity. Coughing and fevers weren’t just signs that I had to stay put at home. But they also meant finding ways to stay on the move until I could touch grass again. Unsurprisingly, I turned to the magic of VR and put my headset back on. After all, users over the immersive platform are a few presses away from accessing gun ranges, test kitchens, scenic mountains to climb and even Meta’s custom home environments that never collect dust.  

VR never left as a platform growing with more ways to keep players moving. The software only kept up with a wireless Meta Quest 2 that never made me feel truly isolated in recovery. It’s latest love letter: bringing the gym and leaving me even more out of breath (if not more active than before). 

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PowerBeatsVR is a VR fitness app that somehow propelled me back into the gym from my own home. It’s hardly a replacement for actively lifting weights and turning stress into strength. But something was better than nothing for many potential users of PowerBeatsVR who can put their Meta Quest 2 sessions to work. 

The app, developed by Germany-based Five Mind Creations, isn’t the first software to make VR users exhausted. Pistol Whip and Beat Saber are clear inspirations for PowerBeatsVR, by keeping players moving long enough for results to kick in. Instead, it keeps users moving enough to be sweatier and lighter at the end of each session. This starts with gamifying the full-body workout process for users new to fitness. On the first boot, I was greeted with a surprisingly straight-to-the-point tutorial in a scenic desert. 

PowerBeatsVR is a VR fitness app that somehow propelled me back into the gym from my own home.”

My first two-minute workout threw plenty of floating objects at me. It didn’t take me long to spot the Guitar Hero style layout that surprisingly works well for a fitness app. Of course, I didn’t have a hard time punching floating blue balls to gain points. PowerBeatsVR uses this deceptively easy task to keep arms moving. My arms burned a bit with some more orbs to smack around.  

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Motion is already a prerequisite for PowerBeatsVR. Users are back in situations where they’re getting their arms and legs moving. Like other gyms in the virtual space, Five Mind Creations find clever ways to stretch arms and encourage enough force to tire users out. The VR workout takes cues from shadow-boxing, which took a life of its own in Creed: Rise to Glory. PowerBeatsVR pays respect by adding uppercuts, jabs and flurries non-stop. As the reps added up, so did friction and aerobics for my arms. To literally shake things up, PowerBeatsVR adds battle ropes that help users maximize their score. 

The full-body VR gym isn’t exactly sparing with walls. In true Beat Saber and Pistol Whip fashion, users are dodging incoming walls. PowerBeatsVR uses this to an advantage and keeps legs moving. The head tracking is fine-tuned enough to make users dodge walls like they mean it. This includes creating large obstacles that force me to step to the sides and even turn my entire body perpendicular. It’s a gesture that—when quantified—puts the leg muscles to work.  

“There’s a bit of polishing to go before PowerBeatsVR can be a household solution for users looking for quick exercises.”

PowerBeatsVR doesn’t shy away from walls that force users to duck and squat to avoid “damage” that can lose points. Instead of skipping leg day, PowerBeatsVR has the potential to make a daunting exercise fun with its rhythm Zumba flair. While users can find the app more accessible than heading to the gym when being at home is a must. I could work out as fast or slow as I needed to. 

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Better yet, my new VR gym included a healthy assortment of EDM. Here, PowerBeatsVR fine-tunes every rep with a rhythm. At launch, the app includes 24 songs that are layered with difficulty levels. Users get 50 “professionally designed” workouts that can be marathoned for a satisfying pain and gain. I found the whole setlist—in two volumes—can be played until my arms and legs felt heavier, while there’s a kind of goal to be found with beating PowerBeatsVR in its entirety every time I put on my Quest 2. After every level, users can also track their calories burned with a squat count. By reframing the game-based scoring system, PowerBeatsVR gives users new ways to outdo themselves next time. 

PowerBeatsVR doesn’t even stop with its own curated songs. The VR gym includes custom playlists and songs that can be added by users. Here, the built-in workout generator can turn any audio track into intense full body exercises. PowerBeatsVR starts to become a platform for custom workouts. Given the support, it can be a treasure trove of exercises work-shopped by professionals or users with levels to share. 

I was sold on the idea of having a gym to access with PowerBeatsVR. My preview came at a time when some kind of fitness beat having no exercise at all, but even before launch, the app packs enough content to be a viable subscription-free alternative. There’s a bit of polishing to go before PowerBeatsVR can be a household solution for users looking for quick exercises. While it has yet to set itself apart from other obstacle rhythm games like Pistol Whip and Beat Saber which are widely adopted, Five Minds’ latest app is the step in the right direction for turning VR into a lifestyle tool. Even when real gyms are out, PowerBeatsVR is a weightless solution that’s very much in. 

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