The exercise bike company Capti wants to bring physical fitness into the metaverse. In contrast to competitors such as Peloton and Zwift, Capti’s gamified cycling platform is based on the Unreal Engine and prepares it for cross-compatibility with a number of existing virtual worlds.
Eventually, the company plans to implement massively multiplayer functionality and turn its fitness bike into a full-fledged game controller.
Many home consumers have turned to virtual replicas of real-world offices or events to help break the monotony of the pandemic. But while these virtual spaces accurately represent the socialization of the physical world, they lack the physical movement inherent in their real-world counterparts. After all, homeworkers don’t have to commute, and dancing at a digital concert is largely a matter of nodding and waving.
Even full VR experiences with headsets and hand controllers are unlikely to make users sweat. While VRChat’s AT&T Station is immersive in many ways, players will have to use a joystick instead of their own feet to navigate the experience.
“It’s a constant battle – we want our kids to be outside, running around in the back yard,” said Josh Neuman, president of Metaverse development studio MELON. “We’re fighting it, but at the same time I think technology and the social community will drive back interest in exciting things that you can physically do.” Neuman cited the popular Pokémon GO as a prominent example: “It really got the kids going. “
Capti’s main product launched today is a home version of the Expresso bike, a gamified fitness bike that has been in gyms for over a decade. Capti isn’t the first company to bring cycling into virtual space, and certainly not the first to invest in the remote gym during the pandemic: home fitness companies like Mirror and Peloton have grown rapidly over the past 18 months experienced. Some observers have already described Zwift, a massively multiplayer cycling and running program, as a metaverse platform. Capti CEO Jeff Veldhuizen worked at Zwift from 2018 to 2020. “There I developed more of my thesis on the subject of fitness as a game,” said Veldhuizen.
What sets Capti apart from its competitors is its potential for interoperability – the ability to transfer users’ assets and identities across multiple platforms. Zwift is a bespoke program marketed primarily to dedicated cyclists. Capti’s cycling platform, on the other hand, was built in Unreal Engine, the same engine developed by Epic Games and used to design titles like Fortnite. That gamification, and the many similarities between Capti and popular video games, make it more of a family product than other home fitness bikes.
“Most fitness platforms, be it a peloton, a Zwift or any other, are closed platforms,” said Veldhuizen. “But we opted for an open platform because we want to make creators and developers fit and make our SDK available to them [software development kit] and come up with things that we never knew were possible. “
Currently, Capti users can choose between a more traditional virtual bike experience where they can avoid computer generated routes, and a playful experience where they collect coins and hunt dragons. There’s a lot of scope to expand these capabilities: Expresso, from which Capti emerged, allows users to compete against other drivers in their physical proximity, and Capti plans to open that functionality to gamers around the world. “I would definitely love to play live against other people,” says Chad Katter, a longtime Expresso user. “The leaderboards definitely motivate me.”
In addition to implementing this multiplayer functionality, the Capti team hopes to partner with non-fitness brands to bring their intellectual property to Capti’s virtual cycling platform. “We’re also talking to people like Disney where we’re looking at how we can work together on licensed content – let’s say, for example: [Star Wars] Podracer or something like that, ”said Veldhuizen.
This IP activation potential applies both to the Capti platform developed in-house and to other virtual worlds. Since Capti was created using the Unreal Engine, the engine used to create popular video game series such as Gears of War and MotoGP, relatively minor changes would be required to work in these titles.
Capti CTO Sander van Zoest believes the company’s game developers are about to open their games to this type of fitness controller. “You can think of the bike as a controller in a game – that’s essentially it,” said van Zoest. “If you do [Capti’s virtual cycling map] Lucky Streak, this is an unreal game. It’s on the same platform as Fortnite, it’s essentially based on the same system. “
Many of these planned features have yet to be implemented into the Capti platform, and the exercise bike’s presale price of $ 2,495 is likely out of reach for the 60 percent of Fortnite players who are between 18 and 24 years old. But the advent of Capti shows a growing awareness of the need to be physically active in virtual space, while also showing the increasing use of game development tools to develop non-gaming products as consumers become more comfortable in virtual worlds.
“I think there is a way to create a new awareness through the metaverse,” said Neuman, “that will lead to more interest in physical fitness and activity.”