This Bike Lets You Pedal Through Virtual Reality

SAN JOSE, Calif., — A stationary bike that gives you a new way of enjoying virtual reality games is about ready to pedal its way into your living room.

VirZoom turns an exercise bike into a controller for VR games on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift; it also supports the forthcoming PlayStation VR. You pedal to propel yourself forward in games, using buttons and triggers on the handlebars as your other controls. The $399 VirZoom will ship in June, director of business development Spencer Honeyman told me at this week's Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo.

VirZoom first caught our eye earlier this year in the startup showcase at CES. That was just a few months ago, but plenty has changed for the bike-turned-game controller. VirZoom is adding heart rate sensors into the handlebars, not unlike the ones you'd find in an exercise bike at the gym. Pedaling backwards will now let you reverse direction in games, too.

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But the essential gameplay remains the same--pedal like hell to move forward and lean to change the direction you're heading in, all the while mashing buttons on the handlebars.

VirZoom ships with five games the company developed on its own: a racing game in which your pedaling powers a race car; a game in which you try to lasso bandits while chasing after them on horseback; a pair of combat games where you control a tank and a helicopter, respectively; and a game that puts you on the back of a Pegasus, flying over a landscape. (I particularly enjoyed looking off to the side while I pedaled to watch the Pegasus's flapping wings when sampling that last game.)

In addition to its own games, VirZoom offers a PC Controller emulator that Honeyman says will let you play existing VR games with the VirZoom controller. There's aslo a free SDK plug-in for Unity and Unreal for optimizing existing games or creating new ones; Honeyman says 100 developers are working on creating content for the VirZoom platform.

VirZoom will support online multiplayer support when it ships in June, and the product can also log the fitness data you amass during those on-bike gaming sessions.