One of the most prevalent use cases for immersive tech is gaming. This is evident in its early rise as a VR killer app, and its leading position among consumer AR experiences. As for future killer apps, we’re bullish on utilities such as visual search, communications and fitness.
Zeroing in on the latter, fitness continues to emerge as a compelling use case for VR and AR as it can gamify your workouts. All of this has amplified in the Covid era as consumers develop new at-home workout habits that could sustain into the post-Covid world (more on that in a bit).
Panning back, if you were to draw a Venn diagram that includes several of the above AR and VR use cases, the overlapping areas of opportunity notably include gaming and fitness. And that’s precisely the target market for the latest AR hardware: PhotonLens’ new Photons.
Purpose-built for the range of motion and physical exertion required in both fitness and immersive gaming, they feature a lightweight and novel design. In advance of the official launch next week (join the event free here), we took a closer look at the hardware and strategic direction.
Going deeper on Photons, the hardware — built by Shadow Creator — includes two controllers that serve as inputs for AR experiences. Meant to be held in each hand, they engender several possibilities for fitness routines such as punching digital objects in a gamified way.
To expand Photons’ functional range and appeal, these controllers also snap onto the sides of the device’s computing unit that has its own screen. In other words, the modular device doubles as a Nintendo Switch-like form factor for traditional 2D gaming in addition to AR.
Furthering the immersive possibilities, the controllers support 6-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) movement. The glasses have a 52° field of view, 8GB RAM, 128GB of storage, 3,000mAh battery, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5. Photons also run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 platform.
It’s also worth noting that the glasses only weigh 85 grams — a deliberate design choice to avoid head and neck strain during physically-exertive experiences. PhotonLens was able to achieve this by offloading compute resources to the aforementioned external computing unit.
“Photons will unlock new possibilities for consumer-ready AR gaming.” said PhotonLens founder Patrick Liu. “With dual 6 DoF controllers, Photons are the only device that offers full 6-DoF head-to-hand tracking, without the need for external sensors.”
To return to an earlier point, the timing could be right for Photons, given immersive fitness’s Covid-era boost. To put some numbers behind that claim, eMarketer reports that popular VR fitness apps like Supernatural and FitXR saw meaningful year-over-year growth rates in 2020.
But the real question is if this behavior continues. We believe it will, just like many habits formed over the past year. Consumers were forced to make new discoveries amidst shifting conditions. But when normality returns, they’re not necessarily going to drop new habits, if positive.
In fact, fitness could be just like work, in that it finds post-Covid “hybrid” structures. Just like professionals will spend time working in the office and at home, many consumers will have gym memberships and at-home immersive fitness tech that coexist in a life-optimized mix.
To that end, there’s already notable innovation in immersive fitness tech. Photons are the latest, and we’ll be watching closely to see where they go next. Meanwhile, check out the official launch event next week and its Kickstarter campaign. It could be a tranformative time for fitness.