According to Facebook’s VP of consumer hardware, Andrew Bosworth, VR fitness and social apps are seeking “the bulk” of increased usage during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bosworth revealed as much in an interview with Protocol earlier this week. “Usage is up across the board, especially during the weekdays,” he said. “Fitness and social apps are getting the bulk of that, which makes sense, given what people are missing elsewhere in their lives.”
Despite the logic, Bosworth said the surge in fitness hadn’t been anticipated by the company. “We have an employee of ours in the Redmond area whose son is allowed to do Beat Saber for P.E. while they’re on lockdown,” he said. “It’s a sanctioned physical education exercise for their school under quarantine.”
VR headsets were already helping people lose weight while having fun before the COVID-19 pandemic set in. But in the midst of lockdown headsets like Oculus Quest have seen renewed focus in this area. Beat Saber got a fitness-focused track and games like Synth Riders and OhShape have seen multiple free updates. Meanwhile, Within was bold enough to launch a subscription-based VR fitness service called Supernatural that offers daily workouts.
Social apps like Altspace VR and Rec Room, meanwhile, offer users a way to virtually meet up with at least some sense of face-to-face connection. Facebook itself is working on a social VR application for Quest and Rift called Horizon, though it’s not available yet.
Ironically probably the most strenuous VR workout we’ve tried during the pandemic isn’t sold on the Oculus Store; VRWorkout is a free app on the SideQuest third-party store that uses Quest’s hand-tracking to free you up for push-ups, squats and more.