Widerun - The first full immersive VR biking experience
Widerun - The first full immersive VR biking experience
Widerun is the first bike trainer you connect to Oculus Rift. Ride in full immersive VR worlds, from SF to the Alps, like being there!
Widerun is the first bike trainer you connect to Oculus Rift. Ride in full immersive VR worlds, from SF to the Alps, like being there! Read more
Widerun is the first fully interactive bike trainer specifically designed to deliver engaging fitness sessions through VR headsets and external screens. It delivers a responsive, immersive, biking experience with unlimited virtual 3D worlds featuring games and bike tracks all designed to create exciting and challenging fitness sessions.
Here's what you see inside
Widerun is a team of cyclists - passionate about our sport and committed to the evolution of VR for fitness. Like most people, we find indoor training uninspiring! Both in the gym and in the basement, cycling while staring at a wall is monotonous and requires no engagement with your physical environment.
A VR cycling trainer can change indoor training into a varied and stimulating experience by providing a great combination of immersive VR courses, videogame type challenges and social interconnection and interaction.
A quick introduction to our path to Widerun
Over the past year, Widerun has built three prototypes each incorportating different features to enhance VR biking experience: resistance, inertia and steering simulations.
We started from a standard mechanical bike trainer and enhanced the bike gears, building a core system with an electric engine simulating the resistance by pulling and releasing the gear cable. This system performed well but the calibration process was unsatisfactory
Based on a top rated commercial solution, this trainer simulated both resistance and inertia, but there was a significant lag on wireless communication between the trainer and the upgraded hardware used to run the VR software resulting in a poor user experience.
Following the Prototype 2 trials, the team developed robust steering options inside the VR software and addressed many of the issues with lag time. Prototype 3 has a Bluetooth Smart communication between the trainer and hardware (PC or smartphone) allowing precise and accurate communication and feedback between the cyclist and the software. The steering sensor system is has multiple options for starting and stopping and allows the cyclist to steer at up to a 60° angle.
Widerun: the full interactive VR bike trainer
The current prototype contains all main functionalities and it works pretty well. The following pictures show the current status and set up of the Widerun bike trainer and steering component.
The steering component is basically a digital compass, connected wirelessly to the base station. The picture and video show the reaction and how it works.
The bike trainer transmits the speed, meaning the acceleration is true in the VR world, as you can see in the video below.
The final design concept
Widerun - Plug and Play with your own equipment!
You do not need any special bike to to enjoy a great VR cycling experience. Widerun’s accommodates any bike with a wheel radius in a range from 26 to 29 inches without any adjustments to the trainer at all!
Designed for VR immersiveness
As starting point we designed Widerun to be immediately compatible with both Oculus Rift DK1/DK2 and Samsung Gear VR, plus the other smartphones able to turn into a VR display (HMD/Smartphones are not included in Widerun KIT). Other HMD options are in the pipeline so keep up with the latest Widerun news.
Kickstarter pack compatible with external screens too!
What if you don't own a VR headset like Oculus Rift? No problems! Even if we designed Widerun in order to deliver a deep immersive VR experience based on VR headsets, the Widerun Kickstarter pack is compatible with external screens such as Smart TVs. Please refer to the FAQ's for additional information.
Real-time VR feedback for a complete responsiveness
During the entire process of building and testing Widerun prototypes the Widerun team determined that most important element for a great VR biking experience was an effective, immediate, coherent feedback between your movement and the reaction in the VR world. That's why Widerun’s hardware responsiveness minimizes communication latency between the trainer hardware and the VR World.
A real world ride in VR: Resistance and inertia automatically regulated by the trainer
One of the crucial aspects into delivering the best immersive virtual reality biking experience is the possibility to regulate the resistance and the inertia on the rear wheel according to the position in the 3D VR world. This means that if you are on a slope or a rise the trainer automatically regulates the resistance so you can feel like going uphill or downhill.
Steering input system for 360° exploration
What would be an immersive VR experience without the possibility of moving around freely, 360°, while visiting the ruins of the Roman Empire in Rome or exploring the Rain Forest in Brazil? To create the best VR biking experience possibile the team designed Widerun with two components: the trainer itself, with the main structure where you lock the bike, and the steering part.
We started with the idea of a steering component to place under the front wheel as you can see in the above picture. We made it and started testing it to collect feedback and impressions from our users. During the tests we realized that the platform we designed in the first version to lock the front wheel was slipping on the floor while biking, substantially decreasing the stability of the bike by shifting the initial setup position.
So we decided to completely redesign the steering component, focusing on a lightweight, simple, stable design for improved interactive and game control. We left the front wheel free generating a stable weight fulcrum and moved the steering input system onto the handlebar, turning it in to a plug & play device enabling a new interactions like start & stop and a steering calibration procedure. The new wireless steering unit is a big improvement and we look forward to shipping it to our Kickstarter backers.
Challenges, leaderboards and gamification!
There is no better source of motivation and engagement than performance metrics and competition! In this way, Widerun is not just an ordinary bike trainer, but a complete training system, with a platform where you can choose among many VR worlds where to ride, interact with the community, find people to challenge and finally check your performance history on your personal dashboard.
Unlimited VR worlds where to bike in!
Widerun it's not just about training! It's about fun, relaxation and exploration! Our goal is to build out the cycling VR space and fill it with diverse experiences and stimulating fitness programs that can be tailored to enhance the cycling experience for anyone with enthusiasm and a bicycle.
Afraid of sweaty VR headsets?
If you’re afraid about feeling uncomfortable wearing VR headsets and sweating into them while biking, well, we were too, especially during Widerun first tests. We started designing a hand-made solution to avoid people sweating and wearing not perfectly hygienic VR headsets. We placed an hygienic adapter on our DK1 able to let the air inside refresh, and discovered that users felt comfortable and didn’t noticed foggy lenses anymore. And afterwards we discovered that there was an already existing and ready solution called About Face. We are grateful to have his founder Mr. Eric Greenbaum as a partner and supporter,researching and developing products specifically for use during exercise in VR.
The motion sickness issue
As many recent debates pointed out, the VR crucial issue is motion sickness. As you'll read in the section about our development process (at the bottom), we immediately realized that combining VR with fitness would absolutely mean addressing this problem. We were basically concerned about experiencing the same sickness we had while trying Oculus Rift demos (set down). According to this concern, we managed to set a significant quantity of tests with all our prototypes (more than 200 overall, with a various range of users), focusing on the physical and cognitive reactions while cycling wearing Oculus Rift.
The results were pretty interesting and positive. We noticed that the main responsible of motion sickness was a kind of cognitive "brakedown" between the sense of presence in the VR world and the missing respective movement in the reality (you move with the keyboard arrows). Indeed, what we noticed during Widerun tests was, at least, a fair level of "coherence" between the spinning real movement and the respective motion in the VR world, good enough to maintain the sense of presence and avoid the motion sickness.
But the job isn't finished yet. Starting from the all the users feedbacks we collected during the tests we are addressing the motion sickness problem while biking on slopes or rises and while steering. We are working hard to solve it through different solutions and deliver the best VR biking experience possible.
How it works
Widerun is a electrical controlled bike trainer thats simulates resistance and flywheel effects using electrical signals.
An embedded microcontroller gets inputs both from the game environment and from the bike trainer to regulate back the electrical signals accordingly to the virtual experience the user is having, like steering degree, speed magnitude and ground resistance.
Widerun Trainer implements a wireless communication channel with PC/Smartphone over BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). “Widerun Trainer” is the BT device name of the trainer you have to pair with in your PC/Smartphone settings. Once paired with Widerun Trainer your PC/Smartphone receives continously data back and forth like a common device.
- Communication and Connection
Widerun Trainer is connected to PC/Smartphone over BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) channel at 2.5 GHz, with a theoretical distance over 100 meters. The trainer implements a standard HID profile descriptor and no drivers need to be installed on the PC.
Widerun Trainer measures up to 30 m/s (100km/h max).
The angle steering range between -30° to 30° (degree). Warning: steering too much makes you falling off to the ground.
The resistance unit can generate up to 800W of power, simulating the peak power produced by a cyclist of 80Kg of weight at 15% of uphill at high speed.
Set it up!
Design your own VR World! Widerun SDK
At Widerun we're developing many different VR worlds, from fantasy ones to nature, cities, cartoon and videogames like. In this way you'll be immediately able to bike in a wide set of VR worlds when you'll get your Widerun trainer.
But we believe that there are many amazing wizards in game design and development out there able to create even better 3D environments where to bike through Widerun.
We decided to include with any type of pledge the complete SDK to let you build and (if you like) upload your own VR worlds! We're looking forward to bike in your VR creations!
What's inside Widerun SDK
- Communication scripts (Unity 3D to Widerun trainer)
- Unity Terrain Generator (360° and straight path)
- Online API (multiplayer leaderboard, fitness session stats)
- Social networks integration
VR Demos Included
Backing Widerun is very simple and secure, with just few clicks, from anywhere in the world.
If you already have a Kickstarter account just login, while if you don't have it, create a new one. On the right side of the page, starting from the top and scrolling down, you'll find all the pledges in sequence: find the pack you're interested in and go over it's box. It will appear a green layer saying “Select this reward”, just click on it and proceed by filling out the info required. Submit your payment information and that’s it!
Then you should receive a confirmation email right after your submit.
As you can see our pledges are quantified in GBP (£), but your payment will be totally fine with others too, from US Dollars to Euros.
In that case, the final pledge price will be converted into GBP according to the value conversion at the payment moment.
Connecting the dots
The starting point: why VR and fitness
We are from the Italian Alps, precisely from a small region called Trentino Alto Adige, where from late autumn to early spring is almost freezing outside. We love to work it out open-air, but as you can understand it’s not always possible. But none of us loves indoor training, mainly because it’s deadly boring. In the intersection of these two problems we got the idea of building Widerun, as output of a basic concept: combining immersive VR and fitness. Since we were concerned about the body’s stability while having a training session wearing a VR headset we decided to start from bike trainers (at least you are settle down), and in March 2014 we had our kick-off.
The alpha prototype and the first tests
We bought a standard mechanical trainer, and our first goal was find the easiest way to automatically control the trainer resistance through a computer and an electrical engine. We had to control the gear-change handle, but since it was in low quality plastic (high risk of breaking it), we pivoted on hacking directly the gears pushing and pulling the bike wires. We had our first crappy, wooden-boxed prototype, designing in the mean time a first gamified VR world, a path through the mountains with different challenges, like collecting coins and time countdowns.
With this alpha prototype plus the VR world and the integration software for Oculus DK1 we ran the first two demo days in June and July, with nearly 30 tests overall.
We were focused on testing the VR+fitness experience, with a 20 minutes session each test, paying attention especially to user movements according to the VR world's path, the sweating issues (we created a sort of home-made hygienical replaceable adapter), stability and overall performances. The final result was people had a lot of fun!
Responsive feedbacks, new VR Worlds and steering option
The alpha prototype tests gave us extremely useful feedback to work on, from both interaction and product features point of views. One of the most common feedback was about the lack of "responsiveness" between the real pedal spin and the respective forward movement in the VR world. We started working on this issue and developing new particular VR worlds where to bike in, from the Great Wall of China to the "Game of Thrones" like one. In order to be as fast as possible we developed terrain generator to create in few clicks a first structured path and then proceed with the environment details (you'll fin this tool in Widerun's SDK).
With the beta prototype we ran over 100 tests, with again very interesting feedbacks. We designed the VR worlds without any kind of gamification inside, and as a result, users frequently asked if they were able to steer and explore the environment (especially to observe details).
The next steps
Risks and challenges
We are a young team of VR and sport passionates, and we find inspiration and motivation into challenges. But at the same time we are aware that the first step to success is not to underestimate tasks and operations, so we put the best effort to take in account all the different variables, from hardware development to shipping timing, costs and logistics.
We spent the last 12 months building and testing Widerun’s different versions, one after another, focusing on refining the product in order to get the best VR biking experience possible. But since we’re a just-born startup, we’ll outsource many of the tasks we’re not able to perform ourselves, especially around logistics and hardware production, partnering with players able to perform the best solutions in the fastest and easiest way. They have a strong experience into producing elaborate hardware and who will now build, assemble and deliver Widerun. We are strongly committed into keeping our promises, that’s why we decided to offer a limited amount of Widerun bike trainers.
In this way we are pretty confident we’ll deliver the product we promised.
- (45 days)