Virtual reality hits the gym


Johannes Scholl is betting virtual reality can keep people excited about working out.

Scholl’s startup, Munich-based Icaros GmbH, has developed a VR exercise machine that delivers a core workout by making it seem like users are flying and deep-ocean diving. About 200 gyms and entertainment centers from London to Tokyo have installed the machines, which cost about $10,000 after including shipping and other costs.  A cheaper home version for about $2,000 is under development and could be unveiled around the start of next year.

“There’s no comparable thing you can do at a gym,” says Scholl, who co-founded Icaros in 2015 with fellow industrial designer Michael Schmidt.

The fitness industry has been trying for decades to make exercise less boring -- from TVs embedded in treadmills to apps nudging users to stay on schedule -- but technology has yet to find a cure for the monotony of working out. Scholl is part of nascent community that believes the addictive pull of video games combined with the immersive power of VR will do the trick.