At Observer, our goal is to help XR developers and content creators build the best content. We believe that the community is at its best when we share our learnings and encourage each other to succeed. This is why we created the XR Creator Series, where we talk with the people helping push the industry forward. We hope to shine a spotlight on the amazing experiences people are building, as well as learn about how they got started, their development practices, and their thoughts on the future.
This week, we talk to Sameer Baroova, co-founder of FitXR. FitXR creates immersive fitness apps that provide real-world benefits. They combine the enjoyment of gaming with the intensity of a personal training session, all in the comfort of your own home.
Observer: What is FitXR?
Sameer: FitXR is a fitness technology company. We are creating a virtual gym where you can access a variety of fitness programs in virtual reality. Similar to a physical gym, you have the ability to work out with friends, join a group fitness workout, do a live class, or select a prerecorded one. We’re building out a variety of different exercises and activities for a full workout routine, including your warm-up, your cool down, etc.
In the future, you'll also have access to an AI trainer who can help you understand your workout patterns and habits and recommend the best workouts for you.
Observer: What does VR/AR technology bring to the fitness world that wasn’t possible before?
Sameer: Access to fitness is a hurdle for many. It’s not just a distance issue, but it can also be very expensive and boring. A virtual gym makes it more accessible, removing the distance barrier by placing it in your home, at your hotel, or even if you go to a gym, it'll be another option. The virtual aspect allows the gym to know where you are in your fitness cycle, keep a record of all the routines you’ve completed in the past, and then can suggest what to do to make your workout more effective.
As for the technology itself, it helps make your gym routine less boring. The sense of immersion that VR brings to a routine can often gamify the experience to a point where the user is so engrossed in the activity that they forget they’re actually working out. Rhythm-based activities get you into this state of focus where you are truly immersed, keeping you engaged and making the activity fun. That’s what makes VR super powerful.
VR owners now have access to a technology that gives you accurate tracking of your hands and head in a real space. We are able to use all of that to track body movement and give accurate feedback to users regarding their form. This feedback loop makes a virtual gym actually possible for the first time. AR will also open up a lot of possibilities in the future that expand beyond a virtual gym. We could augment your real workouts, putting information on top of this equipment to make your real workouts more fun. This type of workout ecosystem would allow you to pull data from both the real world and virtual gym to streamline your workout and allow the platform to suggest the best next workout for you.
Observer: What does your development process look like and how is it different than web and mobile?
Sameer: We tried to bring in all the good elements of recent mobile game development into our process. The mobile titles that are succeeding at the moment have this free-to-play design, not only in terms of monetization, but they are built for continuous engagement. Free-to-play games are heavily data-driven so we’ve used data from the onset to help make informed design decisions. That’s the primary thing that we carried over from our mobile development background. Since we are running it as a service, our application is not just a standalone product; It’s currently priced as such, but we are continuously updating content and over time we will definitely be keeping a keen eye on what our users are doing and update our content based on this feedback loop.
Observer: Why is data so important to your product development?
Sameer: Data is one of the key factors to any new product development process. There are several new aspects to VR and AR, and data is important to understand what users like and dislike, especially from early adopters. We are experimenting with a lot of features early on and getting as much feedback from our users as possible. These are important data points that will inform not only our development of BoxVR, but other exercise apps that we produce in the future. I think if we can get it right early, then in the future we can turn FitXR into a lifestyle product. We want people to come back and use it daily to keep fit and live a healthy lifestyle.
To get to that point we need to understand what works and what doesn't, and data plays an important part of that. Not only to improve, say, the game design elements, but also to understand how users are performing, whether they are overusing or underusing it, and to give them important feedback along the way. So data plays a hugely important role for us.
Observer: Can you give me an example of how you currently use or plan to use data in BoxVR?
Sameer: In the early days of BoxVR, we had this height adjuster where we wanted the user set the height at which our queues were generated for them to hit. But looking at the data on our dashboard, we realized that the adjuster was causing some friction in our onboarding flow and some people weren’t starting a workout. So what we did was adjust it to a certain level below the max height of the headset and this solution has worked for everybody since.
In the future, we want to look at data around how users are moving around their physical space and see how much play space is available in order to create experiences that allow for more physical movement. It’s quite keen for us to be able to track physical space and movement, as well as how they use their hands, feet, and head. This data will allow us to give them an optimal experience.
Observer: What’s next for FitXR?
Sameer: We’re keen on making sure that BoxVR users get a wide variety of content and that they keep coming back to our platform. Our goal is to create a healthy lifestyle for our users, allowing them to work out from home and gain access to something that they might have not been able to access in the past. We’ll continue updating BoxVR and we intend to bring it to as many platforms as possible to widen our reach.
We also plan to create a central hub where it's not just boxing, but where users can also access additional workouts, emulating a full virtual gym. We'll be adding more workouts which are all designed by fitness instructors, including a group fitness class, dance-based routines, martial arts activities, and also introduce things like yoga and stretching.
Thanks to Sameer Baroova for lending his time to be interviewed.