Social media platforms are flooded with parents sharing their concerns over the amount of time children spend on mobile devices or video games instead of sweating out and playing physical sports in backyards or playgrounds. Their concerns are valid as there is hardly any physical activity involved in most mobile and video games. That said, there are several augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) games that have been designed to lure people out of their comfort zones and get some exercise while playing a video game.
Bengaluru-based Indie games studio Jambav has developed an AR game RushARound that creates a virtual gaming environment in the physical world. Players can open the game on their iPhone or Android smartphones, connect with friends or colleagues using Wi-Fi and race against each other to reach a random spot assigned by the game. Players covering all their spots before others win the game, encouraging people to move quickly.
“Not everyone is motivated to work out. But it can be done if you involve a game where people have to move around while having fun at the same time. Platforms like AR have made that possible without feeling gimmicky," explains Sridevi Pavithra, game developer at Jambav. Player activities in RushARound support iOS health app integration, allowing users to evaluate how much of physical exercise they are getting out of the game.
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For people who may not be able to run but are still open to games that allow them to flex their muscles and sweat out, there is Beat Games’ Beat Saber. It is a rhythm-based VR game that puts players in a virtual space where they have to slash fast-approaching blocks using a virtual sabre. The blocks are coming from a single direction but from multiple points compelling players to reach out quickly, resulting in a lot of stretching and flexing of limbs. Beat Sabre is available on all major VR platforms including HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Oculus Quest and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
For users who want to add a little bit of fun to their daily walks, AR games like Niantic Lab’s Pokemon Go and the more recent Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, have much to offer. Both are location-based games and use Google Maps to augment a mythical world filled with characters from the Pokemon and Harry Potter universe, in the physical world. Users are encouraged to explore new alleys or hunt for hidden characters on their mobile screen, and in the real world, they end up walking several miles. Activity in the games will reflect in the Google Fit app, helping players keep track of distance and steps.
Clearly, emerging platforms like AR and VR are helping developers offer newer experiences and build games that can get them some exercise while having fun. That said, these virtual games can only complement physical exercises. They are a poor substitute.