Gizmo Geek: Fly Your Way to Fitness
It combines VR and fitness to create an immersive, yet effective workout experience

They say you can’t put a price on fitness. But would you pay in six figures to get that fit, toned body—sweat, toil and tears extra? We wager that, at the very least, you’d be very tempted by the Icaros, a piece of fitness equipment the likes of which we’ve never seen before. In fact, it’s a machine that can make you fly. At least virtually.

Workout machines bring to mind torture equipment comprising wheels, handles and treads. Not the Icaros. Which is, instead, a sleek, brace-like frame that looks like the lower skeleton and legs of a robotic bird, or a gadget more at place in the belly of a spacecraft rather than a gym. It comes with a virtual reality (VR) headset that you strap on before you climb aboard. And then you take off—up in the sky, out in space—or glide under water, or zoom along a racetrack.

It’s one of those ideas so simple that it makes you marvel at it: combining VR and fitness to create an immersive, yet effective workout experience. Thus, you experience the thrill of flying through space till your muscles scream for mercy. Needless to say, it’s quite a change from pilates in front of a mirror.

The Germany-based Icaros was co-founded by Johannes Scholl and Michael Schmidtt. The idea behind the exercise machine was Scholl’s, back in 2010, when he was a design intern under Schmidtt at Hyve, Icaros’s parent company. The key to pushing the envelope in sports equipment design, the co-founders felt, was to create something “spectacular”, and a machine that could let you fly seemed the perfect way to do that.

The current version of the Icaros consists of the base device that uses a gyroscope and two axles, which work with the user’s centre of gravity. So, as you fly, glide or race along, depending on whether you dip down, angle up, or turn right or left, it brings different muscles into play—the shoulders, chest, lower back, abs and so on. A head-mounted display, wired or wireless, is used to experience the VR games with, while a controller is built into the handlebars of the base device. As of now, games are based in the sky or space, underwater or on the racetrack, with custom durations and difficulty levels, to be used either for exercise or entertainment alone. And for those who don’t like to play alone, there are multiplayer options. An SDK is available for external developers as well.

The Icaros system ships with the base device, which includes the controller and VR headset, and also the Icaros Flight smartphone and PC app. At present, the app works with the Samsung Gear with S6, S7 and S8 smartphones, and with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

An Icaros system (minus smartphone, of course) will set you back by at least $10,500, taxes extra, plus anything between $1,000 and $2,000 to ship to India (which converts to about Rs 8 lakh before taxes). But you can’t put a price on fitness, can you?

Columnist: 
Payal Dhar