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Supernatural is the new version of virtual reality fitness, and it might just save me from being a lazy slug during lockdown.
Oculus Vr Fitness
Joan E. Solsman is a senior media reporter covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She has reported from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. She rides her bike almost everywhere, and only walked in the door once.
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Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and online misinformation Credentials Two-time winner of the Folio Eddie Award – for science and technology writing in the consumer edition in 2018 and for analysis in the consumer edition in 2021
Supernatural, the new virtual reality fitness game you can play at home, doesn’t play. I sweat so much that I have to drink five glasses of water for every 15 minute workout. The first time I tried it, I was in so much pain the next morning that I could hardly walk downstairs. Sometimes I get so caught up in jumping and throwing my arms around like a ninja assassin that I forget to breathe.
Supernatural is a $19/month VR app for the Oculus Quest with a 30-day free trial. This isn’t the kind of VR that lets you sit and spin around in a chair. It sets high-intensity choreographed, game-like workouts to popular music, accompanied by encouragement and guidance from fitness experts. It’s also like jumping around a fascinating BBC nature documentary. Training takes place in 360-degree footage of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
The creators of Supernatural said that they want to replicate the fun exhaustion of activities such as surfing or rock climbing. However, the program does not simulate these movements – instead, it aims to reproduce the feeling of physical activity that does not bore you, because the best workout is the one you actually do.
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“When you’re surfing or snowboarding, you’re never squatting on a wave like, ‘Oh man, I wish this squat would end,'” said Aaron Koblin, co-founder of VR startup Within, creator of Supernatural. an interview. Wint started developing Supernatural as a fitness program that would fit the teams’ own needs after he and other members started jumping on the “startup bandwagon,” he said. They wanted to recreate the fun of being outdoors, but get rid of the hang-ups that keep you from exercising all the time.
“Dancing is primal, moving your body is fun and – the main thing for an antisocial person like me – is to do it at home in the dark and no one is watching,” he said. “This is what allows me to be liberated.”
Anyone who’s ever played Beat Saber — VR’s first hit as a killer app — will find the mechanics of Supernatural familiar. In hands-on, you swing your arms to hit flying targets to the beat of the music and move your body to avoid obstacles.
But unlike Beat Sabre, Supernatural doesn’t challenge you with increasingly complex agility or progressively more complex control schemes. Supernatural makes you swing wider and harder or lunge back and forth before popping up again.
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For Supernatural, you pay a $19-a-month subscription after a 30-day free trial, and you’ll need the Oculus Quest, a $399 virtual reality headset that won an innovation award last year. It’s a bit like Peloton’s equipment-plus-subscription idea for home fitness — the difference is that it doesn’t require a $2,245 stationary bike and doesn’t charge $40 a month for classes. (Peloton also offers a $13-a-month digital subscription for equipment-free digital workouts.)
And Supernatural is the first attempt to bring this kind of subscription-based full-body workout service to virtual reality.
A few years ago, VR was one of the hottest trends in tech, attracting giant investments from heavyweights like Google and Facebook, which bought Oculus for around $3 billion in 2014. But the hype died down as mainstream VR adoption was elusive. Consumers en masse have had mixed feelings about these face-bound headsets.
At least people seemed disinterested in virtual reality before the coronavirus pandemic kept us indoors. Good luck trying to buy Oculus Quest online right now. The 64GB Quest model should cost $399, but the Oculus store is sold out. Even where you can find it online from third-party sellers on Amazon or Walmart, it’s priced at $560 and up.
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Supernatural is like a shadow ninja dance class. You choose a workout that can last anywhere from 12 minutes to half an hour. You’re met by a fitness trainer, referred to in the game as a coach, who gives you a brief mental training on what to focus on in this program. Then that trainer’s voice will stay with you as you move through a selection of popular songs. The coaches give you pep talks, tips on how to get through difficult passages, and remind you to breathe (which was really important for me).
Supernatural launched on the Oculus Store on Tuesday with several workouts, and it adds a new workout every day. They include hits like Lizzo’s Good as Hell and Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us, and more. Supernatural has music deals with Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, two of the so-called Big Three record labels.
Within is designing Supernatural to have both a variety of musical genres and a variety of personalities in the coaches. The idea is that no matter what your personality or style is, you can find a trainer or workout playlist that will immerse you and empower you.
Supernatural’s coaches will help you with form tips, reminders to keep breathing, and encouragement to move faster and hit harder. Within limits
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It has two main game moves. The first is to hit targets that fly towards you with long bats that you hold in your hands. The targets are black or white and you hit them with the corresponding black or white bat. The second is to crouch or lunge so that your body is framed by glowing triangles that also fly towards you.
Supernatural is designed in such a way that each workout is built around that song at a difficulty level that adapts to you. You work your arms, back, and chest by punching, you work your core by twisting your torso from side to side, and you work your lower body with lunges and squats. Some workouts focus more on curls, others on quick kicks, and still others on getting you low just to regain your energy.
The program also calibrates the difficulty in each workout. It’s designed to be challenging enough to be engaging, but not so challenging that you lose focus on your form and strength.
This dynamic complexity is essential to ensure that your workout is most effective. At launch, Supernatural has two workouts that don’t change in difficulty. One is at the beginner level and the other remains locked at the pro level. After trying a professional workout, I realized that it was actually a ridiculous workout. When our bodies get tired, we instinctively figure out shortcuts, so as pro-level training picked up the pace, I began to inadvertently cheat my form. For example, I would be more likely to flick my wrist to engage targets instead of consistently punching them through a strong range of motion.
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For Beat Saber fans, it’s a bit like playing 360 mode on hard to expert difficulty levels – at least at my skill level. But Supernatural’s challenge isn’t so much about coordination and speed as it is about endurance and strength. And instead of being in a dark vacuum full of weird neon, you’re standing atop the ruins of Machu Picchu, towering over the Andes against a perfect blue sky. Or hover over the glowing lava of the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia. Knee-deep in turquoise Galapagos water. Places rarely viewed with luxury, even when we’re all trapped outside.
You get points at the end of each workout. One is for accuracy, a combination of how well you hit targets and break through triangles, and the other is for your move power. Supernatural also has an element of social tracking. You can follow your friends’ progress and compare it to your own on the weekly leaderboard. The VR app also has a companion phone app that makes it easy to check your stats, see how your friends are doing, and connect your smartwatch to the app to track your heart rate during your workout.
I’ve been using Supernatural longer than any other member of the press, and I’m killing it with accuracy. But damned if I can’t get my strength stat consistently above 85%. When I really want to hit targets with fury, I pretend that those black and white balls are actually floating coronavirus cells. I cut through them with a vengeance, dropping a bomb. It usually works for me
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