SFIA Member Spotlight – Black Box

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Black Box talks virtual reality, fitness and how their product is unlike any other.

Ryan DeLuca, Co-Founder & CEO // Preston Lewis, Co-Founder & COO

What is Black Box?

Lewis: Black Box combines the addictive qualities of gaming and the power of immersive technologies with a patent-pending dynamic resistance machine to improve your fitness level and transform your life.

When was Black Box founded?

Lewis: In April 2016.

What inspired the creation of Black Box?

Lewis: My co-founder and I have been in the Health and Fitness Industry for 15 plus years. With our passion for changing lives, we created award-winning health and fitness apps, built the world’s largest social fitness network, and delivered world-class content to millions of people. Along the way, we were blessed to see many lives changed and incredible transformations take place. But no matter how many innovative tools we created, we still saw a glaring problem. We continued to see the majority of our users struggling with long-term adherence to their fitness programs. To be fair, our bodies literally fight against us as we try to stick to our fitness goals. They are programmed to be efficient with calories and induce pain when we are pushing too hard. On top of that, working out is immediate pain and delayed reward; it lacks the feedback loops that are needed to encourage follow-through. Not to mention the boredom! You stand there in the traditional gym, looking in the mirror, doing rep after rep, bored out of your mind. Contrast that with game design. Game designers have figured out how to keep people unhealthily addicted to games where they are effectively leveling up their game characters but leveling down their actual lives, as they remain glued to the couch with Cheetos dust on their shirts. If only you could actually be the hero in a game that leveled up your life. Enter virtual reality.

After trying virtual reality for the first time, we were blown away. We knew that this powerful technology, when elegantly paired with science-backed resistance training principles and the right game mechanics, would be a game-changer for the industry. It was with this realization that we decided to found Black Box VR. We vowed to create a company that would help our customers transform their lives through addictive fitness experiences that harness the power of immersive technologies. Virtual reality is going to change the world in ways we don’t even know yet and we are confident it is going to transform fitness forever, helping millions of people finally adhere to their fitness programs, achieve their goals and change their lives.

Since founding Black Box, we have built a talented team of seasoned veterans with diverse backgrounds in the game, fitness and hardware industries. We have also received a patent-pending for our Dynamic Resistance Machine that specifically pairs with high-end virtual reality systems to create an immersive workout experience while delivering real fitness results.

Who is your target market?

Lewis: At Black Box, we believe that through innovative engagement mechanics, user personalization, real-time form tracking, coaching AI, game mechanics, deep data analysis and artificial intelligence, we will be able to reach a diverse demographic of people. Our core age group focuses on 25-40 year olds that want to improve their health and fitness, have an affinity for games and want workouts that are data-driven, engaging and time-efficient.

How unique from other virtual reality products?

Lewis: Black Box’s uniqueness comes through the combination of immersive technologies with innovations in hardware and game design. Each element supports another to create a fitness experience like never before. One key differentiator is our patent pending Dynamic Resistance Machine that is specifically designed to deliver real resistance in a virtual environment. Nobody in the market is delivering real resistance that corresponds to an immersive virtual sport like we are. The Dynamic Resistance Machine is mapped in the virtual environment so when you reach out to grab a virtual handle, you are actually grabbing the handle in the real world. You can feel it. We’ve also created wearable devices that give you awareness of hand position without the need to hold a controller.

The Dynamic Resistance Machine calibrates to how tall you are and prescribes resistance based on your goals and fitness level. The machine itself runs through the game engine, so it responds to your gameplay and can change the weight and angles of tension without you ever having to make manual adjustments. This allows you to be fully immersed in the experience, while the number crunching, rep counts, weight counts and form tracking happens behind the scenes. Every successful rep you perform in the game corresponds to some action in the Black Box game, keeping you at the center of the action. The dynamic nature of the machine opens up a vast toolset for us to use in the game to give you the best fitness results. It allows for automatic drop-sets, negative reps, and much more, with the ability to smoothly change the resistance at a .1lb tolerance. This isn’t just a game changer for virtual reality; it’s a technology that is a leap forward for the fitness industry as a whole.

What kind of gear is involved?

Lewis: We use a high-end virtual reality headset, hands-free wearable devices for hand position tracking and our Black Box Dynamic Resistance Machine.

How do you make fitness fun for consumers? Is it a competitive game?

Lewis: The Black Box experience is something we call a V-sport or virtual sport. I’ve been in athletics my entire life and have always enjoyed the thrill of competition. I’ve also had to push through the boring grind of countless gym sessions. With Black Box, we wanted to combine the two, minus the boredom! The great thing about sports is that they have simple rules and yet an infinite amount of variety in experience. This variety comes in the form of training modes, championships, local and national leagues, team mentality and camaraderie, rivalries, inspiring stories of triumph, and more. All of these elements are combined in the Black Box brand and experience. Users take part in a virtual competition where their physical performance determines a victory or defeat. Every action that take, every rep they push in the real world, corresponds to an in-game offensive or defensive attack against an opponent. For example, each successful chest press rep at 100 lbs of resistance might correspond to a level 5 attack on enemy troops. Or each rep of a 150 lb squat could send a flurry of offensive strikes at a competitor’s base. Black Box will take the addictive nature of gaming, combined with real physical performance to usher in a new era of sports and fitness.

Does this product work out a specific muscle or all muscles?

Lewis: We are building science-backed routines that increase the functional fitness of our users. Because the Black Box Dynamic Resistance Machine is cable-based, you can do a wide range of movements that hit all major muscle groups. We have also built in active rest flows that give you the high intensity interval training to provide cardiovascular benefits.

What locations do you currently have? How many Black Box rooms are in each location?

Lewis: Our plan is to open our flagship Black Box Gym in early 2018 in San Francisco, California. Each location will have a minimum of 10 dedicated Black Box rooms.

When do you think you will open up your first Black Box?

Lewis: Our plan is to open our flagship Black Box Gym in early 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Where do you see Black Box in 5 years?

Lewis: In 5 years virtual reality technology will be much more lightweight and it’s proliferation in other industries will have introduced millions to the benefits of the technology. Black Box locations all over the world will allow people to actually enjoy the journey to accomplishing their health and fitness goals. Immersive technologies will drive new ways of creating engaging sports experiences and even usher in a new era of virtual sports. Black Box will lead the virtual sports charge. Those looking to take their fitness to the next level will compete in Black Box virtual sporting events where a mix of in-game skill and physical performance will determine champions and future fitness celebrities.  Innovations in the technology will also drive prices down, allowing Black Box technology to be accessible from the comfort of your own home. We are just getting started!

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