Virtual Arena: Immersive Wellness

Virtual Arena: Immersive Wellness

The Application of XR into the attractions and amusement landscape is covered by industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest Virtual Arena column – we look at the Out-of-Home application of immersive fitness, using Gamification to offer a more effective (and fun) exercise regime.

In this latest column for MIXED, we look at the application of Exercise Gaming (“Xergaming”) – defined as the utilisation of Gamification into the fitness and exercise scene. Immersive technology has added to the application of this technology with VR, MR and all aspects of XR being deployed in the latest application.

Seen as “Active Immersive Entertainment”, developers look beyond the creation of immersive exercise and fitness hardware but also creating compelling training and rehabilitation systems, using the gamified state to help achieve the training goals, as well as creating compelling activities.

Early Application of Xergaming

The initial applications of “Xergaming” were seen with the explosion of interest in the Dance Stage game experience, derived from the amusement ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ platform part of KONAMI’s BEMANI series of music rhythm games. This highly physical experience offered a strenuous workout for players, and it was seen as a game experience that could be employed in school-based physical fitness classes.

Note – the Dance Stage game genre still has an incredibly successful life in the amusement scene, celebrating over twenty years of play. With titles like ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Dance Dance Revolutions’, and the independently developed ‘StepManiaX’ avidly followed and played in this space.

From employing the home game version in schools, developers started to create dedicated commercial “Dance Mats” Xergaming variants. Offering not just a rugged version, but also included network scoring and play, to offer a compelling class-based physical education (PE) experience. This seeing KONAMI launch ‘Dance Dance Revolution Classroom Edition’ able to support up to 48-players across wireless dance mats and with scoring and song selection.

Gaming Exercise

It was from this early gaming exercise experience that the development of Active Entertainment (also known as “Active Social Play”) was defined. With the development of more dedicated physical activity environment that can be deployed into spaces such as schools.

One such example is the DiDim Smart playground from Twohand Interactive. An immersive interactive solution, exhibited at London’s BETT education showcase conference. Claimed to be the first in the world with a floor projection, movement tracked multiuser experience. This is a Mixed Reality physical fitness experience targeting classrooms, and gyms – along with leisure locations such as lobbies. Targeting up to 12 players supported simultaneously. It is this gamification of the exercise experience that is proving so compelling for the new player base.

The need for the fitness industry to redefine itself after the impact of the Global Health crisis and lockdown on the gym business has seen the adoption of new technology and a wider scope to the exercise experience. Developers such as Embedded Fitness – offering physical fitness, and rehabilitation through the deployment of their Xergaming platforms including their ‘Smart Wall’ and ‘SmartBike’ systems. These platforms supported by mobile apps to customise the experience, even a simple space can be turned into a gamified experience with their ‘SmartMove’ interactive trackers.

From active game mats and projection traced surfaces, another application seen in the amusement scene is that of a dedicated interactive gaming floor. Pixel Games is such a system using illuminated floor panels that can track the players' movement. Offering multiple game modes. The gaming floor platform deployed in leisure and entertainment venues globally, attracting players of all ages to the active and compelling experience that also attracts a crowd.

Immersive Out-of-Home Fitness

The home fitness scene has been bolstered by the impact of lockdown and the latest smart apps for fitness. One of the other new developments has been with consumer VR, seeing several popular fitness VR applications such as FitXR. While home VR systems seem a logical personal fitness platform – a futuristic replacement to the home exercise bike, the reality is that exercising at home is a limited experience.

The out-of-home leisure entertainment scene has already been investing in VR applications for exercise and fitness. We already mentioned in our coverage (Virtual Arena: Body Active), systems such as the ICAROS – transforming the users' movement into the virtual world, for personal fitness as well as being deployed into healthcare.

Along with platforms for this sector, there have been attempts to create dedicated VR fitness installations. One such being BlackBox VR – offering an immersive gym and gamified fitness environment. Two locations operational following the initial phase, after restructuring the operation following the impact of the Global Health crisis. BlackBox VR has been installed in conventional gyms as an immersive fitness platform, as well as its standalone venue aspirations.


Crossover of Fun and Fitness

It is the development of facility-based entertainment systems with a fitness is now driving new international investment. While VR may have been seem as one approach, the majority of these developments focus on MR through projection mapping and interactive display walls.

One of the up-and-coming developers is ValoMotion, known for their immersive projection mapped climbing wall experience (‘ValoClimb’) and their immersive trampoline systems (‘ValoJump’). Recently, the company has launched a multiplayer Immersive Enclosure system that allows the players' representations and movements through computer vision to be placed into the game, with Valo Arena – again offering a highly active game experience.

The Immersive Enclosure approach has become a new entertainment trend, seen with the success of platforms such as the Immersive Gamebox. The more physically active the immersive experience, the better the audience likes it. The highly physical playing style offering a compelling experience – and can be tied to a more enjoyable multi-player game.

Developer CSE Entertainment have created a series of systems ranging from an interactive digital wall, exercise bike and treadmill that are applied for entertainment as well as, through their new educational division that appeared at Educa 2024 in Helsinki, (a European educational convention). While manufacturer PLEYO has created a highly active entertainment platform with the ‘PleyoStation’ – a mini trampoline style experience with again the players' movements represented within the game.

Social Play Gets Active

Finally, we look at the crossover of Social Entertainment through competitive socializing and the inclusion of fitness training tech. The developer of the soccer training platform (TOCA Football) has entered the Competitive Socializing scene with their new TOCA Social. Under the tagline “Eat, Drink and Score,” the active sports system offers an immersive football dining experience than a fitness workout. Just opening their second site located in Birmingham for June, the venue with some 23 interactive football boxes comprising the ball tracking technology. The operation signing a Mexican partnership towards a mass roll-out of venues based on this concept in the territory.

Another such example of this approach is with B’MOOVD sports bar. Newly opened in Germany, the concept offers a hospitality sports bar environment, with the football shooting simulator powered by Sports Simulation – a developer of ball tracked projection simulator systems that offer all the major sports turned into immersive interactive experiences.

Active Play is a fundamental element of the new drive for immersive entertainment. Along with the sports focused approach, active game experiences with a strong social element can be seen gathering pace in the Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) market. This illustrated by the launch of ‘The Arena’ – an immersive social experience created by Game Volt.

The system, described as the best in physical arcade-style gaming, offers an immersive enclosure, for up to eight players – combines physical, skill, and agility gaming within the 16ft (ca. 5 m) x 16ft (ca. 5 m) glass box. Utilizing interactive LED floor and digital push button interactive wall supported by surround sound audio. This new product looking to fit into the Competitive Socializing landscape gaining momentum in the market.

This concludes this snapshot of the Xergaming approach to Active Entertainment, and the opportunities that a more physical entertainment experience offers to Location-Based entertainment compared to the more sedentary consumer approach. The next feature will cover the explosion in Immersive Gallery and Exhibit experiences using VR and MR technology – and the possible future for this trend.


About the Author – Kevin Williams is a widely-respected specialist on entertainment and technology assisting international clients in developing immersive and interactive entertainment technology and facilities. Kevin is Founder of KWP, a lead specialist in immersive Out-of-Home Entertainment for retail destinations and beyond. Along with advisory positions with other entrants into the market he is founder and publisher of The Stinger Report, “a-must-read” e-zine for those working or investing in the amusement, attractions, and entertainment industry. Kevin is a prolific writer and provides regular news columns for main trade publications. He also travels the globe as a keynote speaker, moderator and panellist at numerous industry conferences and events. Author of “The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities”, the only book on this aspect of the market, the second edition is scheduled for a 2023 release.
Kevin can be reached at