Despite having the greatest incentive to spearhead innovation in employee wellness, companies and health plans are not always the first to explore or adopt next generation technologies. Fortunately, there are academics across the country filling this void. One such example is Dr. Jimmy Bagley, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Dr. Bagley is studying the impact of virtual reality exercise on the human body as a researcher at the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. Virtual reality (VR) as a tool to promote exercise is a concept that many wellness professionals may be unfamiliar with, which is why Dr. Bagley joins Wellable in this podcast to share his knowledge on the state of VR as a form of exercise. The podcast focuses on the current market, which is primarily consumer centric today, and dives into the impacts VR can have on employee wellness, including a discussion of a VR pilot being conducted at SFSU. Enjoy!
You can listen to the podcast below, or open it on SoundCloud to listen on-the-go!
Wellable also created a quick infographic on how you can bring VR gaming into the workplace for employee wellness. Check it out below or download a copy to share with friends and colleagues!
VR Exercise In Action
Check out the video below for a sneak peak into Dr. Bagley and his colleagues’ work in VR gaming and how it can be a feasible form of exercise.
Dr. Bagley: In the first study that we did, we had three games that we used, and we that found all of them were in the at least moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, which is where we would want people to be exercising if they’re on a treadmill or a bike.
This could be a big thing to get people moving and actually enjoy what they are doing as well.
Nick: Hey everyone, and welcome to the Wellable podcast, a series focused on building better cultures and more productive workforces. Whether you’re an employee wellness and engagement expert or novice, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Nick Patel, and Wellable is your one-stop shop to stay informed and up to date on trends and data in the employee wellness and engagement industry.
Before we get started, be sure to connect with us and join the conversation on Twitter. Our handle is @GetWellable. Also, I’d love to hear more from you, so shoot me an email at nick(at)wellable(dot)co to let me know what you think of our show and topics that you want us to discuss in feature episodes.
We have a great episode in store for you today. Unlike our last podcast where we talked about outdated employee solutions of the past like HRAs and biometric screenings, this podcast focuses on the future, and I mean the REAL future. That’s right, I am talking about virtual reality (VR), and we have the one and only, Dr. Jimmy Bagley joining us to share his expertise on the subject.
Dr. Bagley is the Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at San Francisco State University. He earned a PhD in Human Bioenergetics from the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University, and has a Master and Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology as well. But, probably more important than all those degrees is his research he’s currently doing with the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise.
Dr. Bagley, welcome to the show!
Dr. Bagley: Thanks for having me Nick!
Nick: Before we get into the Virtual Reality Institute, I personally was fascinated by how you found yourself involved with the virtual reality movement. And I think it highlights how big the movement really is that is not something limited to just academia. Will you share the story with us?
Dr. Bagley: Yeah, it’s actually a really interesting story. Like Nick mentioned, I have a degree in Bioenergetics, which is basically a fancy word for saying “Exercising Physiology.” In school and up to the first couple of years of my work at San Francisco State, I’ve been working on cellular muscle physiology all the way up to whole body performance. We were actually approached by an entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley named Aaron Stanton He has an interesting story; he came up to me and my colleague at San Francisco State (we’re in the Exercise Physiology Laboratory there) and was like “Hey I’ve been playing these virtual reality games”. At this point, I had have never played a virtual reality game. I had never even used virtual reality. And so anyway, he said that he felt like it was a good exercise because he was measuring his heart rate. We all kinda know that as your heart rate increases, it increases linearly with exercise intensity. So that got me and my colleague, Dr. Maria Kern, who’s our Department Chair, kinda interested in this, thinking that this can actually be a new mode of exercise for people who maybe hadn’t wanted to do some tradition treadmill or weight training programs, but they might be interested in gaming.
He (Aaron) came into the lab a couple of times and we hooked him up to some devices to measure his oxygen consumption. This is a way to measure exercise intensity, not with just heart rate but actually looking at how much energy our muscles use while exercising. We found some really surprising results, that a handful of these games actually increase the metabolic rate of your body up to the equivalent to sprinting or rowing or something like that. We continued working with him over the last year and a half or so and we kinda developed this Virtual Reality Institute for Health and Exercise and it’s really kinda taking off.
Nick: That’s a really good segue … Obviously you met with Mr. Stanton and you guys kinda launched a partnership. Now you formed the institute. What’s the stated goal of mission, what’s the real focus of your research today? And how is that going to change? Virtual reality is changing month by month so to speak. Where do you envision the institute going, and what value is it offering the broader wellness community specifically around virtual reality.
Dr. Bagley: Kind of like I said at the beginning, the initial goal was just to find out: does this virtual reality gaming platform a form of exercise that valid and actually works? Initially, we came up with a “yes”, and we continue to see that. [inaudible] so the research in the last few months and probably into the next year is studying as many games as we can. Basically we’re getting a handful of people attached to this device that measures oxygen consumption, so if you’re familiar with the idea of VO2 max – the maximum amount of oxygen you can breathe or that your body can use during high-intensity exercise… we’ve been doing that on various games and each game that we studied we actually put up on this website. It’s VRhealth.institute if you’re interested in checking it out and that’s where all the games that have been tested are going to be posted.
The idea is that consumers and just people interested in gaming in general out there can look at games and be like ‘this one might be a good form of exercise while maybe that one not so much.’ On the broader scope, we continue to add this to different platform. We’re not just doing it in the lab [inaudible] but also our faculty and staff in the wellness center. People have been seeing it and be like “wow, this is crazy and it’s something that you actually have to experience to do.” We can post up a link on your website to show what a video actually looks like inside the headset so you can actually see… The future is to get this out into more people’s hands
Nick: In virtual reality or wellness in general there’s the consumer element to it, and then there’s an enterprise or employee wellness element to it. Like most technology innovation, they start with the consumer… Fitbit was a consumer technology and now it’s made its way into the ‘employer-subsidized’ version or into wellness programs. As you’re the consumer and you’re thinking about the Virtual Reality Institute, is the belief that me as a consumer, I’m looking between a handful of VR games that it may change my purchasing decision? For example, my decision might be ‘well, I am interested in both of these games, and this one will have a better impact to my health’ that people will start purchasing or consuming VR games in a way that considers their health. Unlike when I was a kid and everyone was playing box console… we just sat there and moved our thumbs, the concept of thinking about our health never crossed our minds when choosing which game to play. Do you think that’s maybe unstated or indirect goal that the VR Institute going to hope to impact consumer behavior in?
Dr. Bagley: Yeah, I think like you said, consumers aren’t really thinking about this (VR games) as exercising yet, and in fact most of developers and big companies… they’re not even thinking about this as exercise quite yet. I think what spurred people’s thought into this was over the last couple of years with the out coming of the Wii, which was a decade ago or more now. That was kinda like a short-term… it wasn’t really gimmicky, it lasted a little while, but it was really one-dimensional, right? You have to have a Nintendo Wii and you had to play in a certain way and things like that. There were only a handful of games. But now, with the development of several different VR headsets and different platforms, you can buy from multiple companies and you can get games that can work across multiple different platforms… it has expanded the universe of your ability to play different games in just one or two years.
Another thing… that year with the Pokemon Go, that’s kind of augmented reality, right? So you’re looking through your phone to see this virtual world in there. And that got people thinking about exercise too because people started getting off the couch and walking, playing Pokemon Go (which was a huge success). To now, it’s kinda tapered off. Even that was kinda one-dimensional, it was one game. But I think these have all been building and building to where we’re seeing like almost a convergence of technologies that really weren’t all available at the same time…but now 2017 18 19, I see all these coming down in price. Right now you can go to Best Buy and buy an Oculus Rift, a VR headset that’s pretty high end, for about 400 dollars. So the price point has gotten down a lot, which will make it really accessible to people, I think, at home, in the next several years.
Nick: Adding to that list, I also think about the Microsoft Kinect that also had some … I don’t know what technology it was, it wasn’t virtual reality, but similar to the Wii in the sense that you can move your body to actually play the game. I remember when it first came out there was a ton of buzz around it, and I can’t even remember or tell you the last time I even heard about it… Hopefully virtual reality has, those to your points, multiple elements that didn’t exist before that can have a little bit more stickiness in terms of getting people to get excited and adhere to the actual technology.
So how many games have you reviewed thus far? I imagine that it’s fairly intensive… correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m imagining you’re trying to measure oxygen consumptions and things like that… there’s all these equipment, the users that you have to go through, you have to go through that with multiple users, multiple scenarios in the games because the game movement changes over time…. What is that process? How many games have you done? Is there a plan to continue doing more? And then as a follow up, how do you determine which games? If I were a virtual reality developer, I’d think I’d contact you saying ‘please review my game, it’s a way for me to get good publicity, maybe get some sales out of it’… Do you have a long list of games that people are requesting? Do you kinda analyze the review, and if so, what’s the process of choosing? How do you prioritize that list?
Dr. Bagley: I’ll kinda start with the last part of your question, which is how do we decide which game to review. Initially we went with the plan of playing a dozen of virtual reality games, and then we chose the ones that we thought would be a good exercise that people would play for a while that were relatively popular… they were the most downloads or purchases, so that’s how we initially started. But, since then, we’ve opened it up to where you can go to our website and you can actually contact us and recommend if you’re a developer or just a consumer and you’re like ‘Hey I wonder if this game is exercising… what’s the intensity that I can expect to get out of it?’ and you can drop the name in there. And then like you said, we do have a list, so we’re getting to that as needed but we’re really trying to go for the most viewed games or the most popular games that people are interested in playing.
And the process… yeah, it’s pretty intensive. So what we do is that… the first study that we did, we had three games that we used because that was a nice number, we could do a full session that was about 45 minute long where somebody could play each game for about 15 minutes. We got a little over 41 volunteers split evenly between males and females. We had them come into the lab and do a VO2 max test, so like I mentioned before, that would be exercising all the way to peak exertion where you can’t run anymore on a treadmill. (I try to do that once a year just to see how my fitness is, it seems to be going down every year with age a little bit which is kinda depressing but…). Anyway, we got their VO2max, we know their maximum heart rate, and then the next couple of days they’d come in and play these three games in randomized order for 15 minutes. We’d record the middle 5 minutes of their heart rate and their oxygen consumption to measure intensity. Then we could actually convert that to calories expended. [inaudible]. If you look on the cereal box that says how many calories you ate, we can tell you how many calories you actually burned in that short time…
So anyway we did three games… The first one we did was a really popular one called Audio Shield, and it’s a game where you take basically these two shields on your hand and you’re block orbs that are coming at you to the music, and the music increases and decreases in speed and intensity that you do. Another one that we did was a boxing game called NAME [inaudible], kinda like you go through different rounds boxing different people, and you move side to side, you have to squat and everything like that. The third one was Holopoint, which was an archery game. So you [inaudible] have a bow and arrow [inaudible].
We found all of them were in the at least moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, which is where we would want people to be exercising if they were on a treadmill or a bike or doing some other kinds of aerobic activities. So that’s kinda of the process, we did the first three games, and now we’re continuing to bring these subjects or these participants back into the lab to test them on various other games. This obviously is confined to the lab space, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, so what we’re doing over the next year or so is we will be sending people home with games to play at home, measuring their heart rates in real time at home, and comparing that to their previous gaming experiences in the lab where we actually measured their oxygen consumptions. So now we can kinda get users’ heart rates as the surrogate measure for intensity to measure calories… You know, the farther away you get a little less accurate, but we still feel pretty confident since we had them in the lab several times to measure their actual oxygen consumptions and calories expenditures and can kinda extrapolate that. So now we’re able to actually measure more and more games, so the idea is to have hundreds, if not thousands, of games, measured at least for the surrogate measure of heart rate for exercise intensity.
Nick: And how are you measuring heart rate at home?
Dr. Bagley: The participants that we have in the study, we give them a heart rate monitor, it’s a Polar heart rate monitor, it’s just a chest strap, and it syncs to your phone. There’s an app on there, and that app get sent directly to our database. So when they click ‘go’ on their game, we know their games, what they’re playing, and we know what their heart rate is throughout that gameplay. When they hit ‘stop’, they’ll hit stop on the app, so we have that real-time. So it’s kinda nice, we’re building a database of heart rates for exercise across a large base of population. We’re still at a small population now, but it’s getting bigger and bigger by the week.
Nick: One final question about the virtual reality in terms of health and wellness as it relates to consumers and then we’ll kinda hop into how it may impact or be influential on the employee side…
You know, when I think about a well-rounded physical activity regimen, I think of doing various activities, some cardio, weight lifting, things like that. Is there any thoughts on… I don’t know if you studied this yet, but more on your own intuition… If a game is really popular, and I am thinking about some of these games even when I was growing up or even the ones I see my nephews and nieces play now… they’re highly addictive, they play a ton of that specific game. From a physical activity perspective, say archery, you’re doing that archery movement over and over again, and that’s obviously beneficial in the sense of, ok you’re getting exercise, your heart rate is going up, but is there any kind of concern or thoughts related to the same movement or hey you’re playing a game and it’s addictive and it’s good in a sense that it gets you excited and it gets you working out and that’s better than nothing, but it’s also maybe limiting in a sense that you’re doing the same movements or similar movements over and over. And as virtual reality truly becomes a wellness or health-oriented tool that the same way you diversify your workout that you’d need to diversify the games you’re playing to make sure you’re doing a wide range of activities… Is that something you’ve thought about, or is it kind of jumping ahead too far?
Dr. Bagley: That’s kinda where our institute is moving towards, is looking at not just the positive effects of VR gaming but also potential negative effects. If we look back, think about the Wii… The Wii had that bowling game which was super popular, but a lot of people said that their elbow was hurting as a symptom of [inaudible] called tennis elbow [inaudible]. And that can happen from repetitive motions over and over again.
A lot of the games that we have now, the repetitive motions aren’t like that specific, but if there were a game that was very specific motion, then we would recommend not playing it hours on end. Another thing beside just the motion aspect is motion sickness. Some people have complained about getting motion sickness with VR, but I think this is really an engineering problem. It’s something that maybe happen if perhaps the game developers hadn’t really thought of a certain that you’re doing when your body moves or is staying stationary while your vision seems like it’s moving one way or another, it can cost motion sickness. So every time we have a participant play our game, we have them fill out questionnaires that have these on there… Did you feel comfortable? Were the headsets comfortable? Did your eyes hurt? Did you feel sick? You know, various questions to get at this… And so far, we’ve had pretty good success. There have been a couple of instances where people maybe after playing for half an hour or 45 minutes felt motion sickness, but then again I think that’s an engineering problem that we can get around. The more data that we [inaudible] for developers to help them be like ‘oh, you know this certain level or whatever in the game may cause people discomfort, so let’s change that up’. But I think the more information we have, the better in this case.
Nick: Great! Moving on to employee wellness!
When I think about how when virtual reality has at least an initial impact on employee wellness, everyone is not going to have a virtual reality hardware equipment at their house, so if it starts in employee wellness I imagined it’d be something they turn the conference room, office, or an open space into an area where there is publicly available equipment. The first thing that any employer is going to think about is how much does it cost and what’s the replacement cycle or what’s the alternative? Perhaps the alternative is would be onsite fitness classes where employers are converting conference rooms into yoga studios, or open spaces into areas where they can have boot camp classes. Can you talk a little about cost? I know you mentioned a little bit earlier but… what’s a typical cost for an employer to get all the hardware to launch at least a single device or a single instance of it? Is there a replacement cycle like computers where every six months you have to upgrade your hardware? What are the requirements necessary to even think about virtual reality in the workplace?
Dr. Bagley: Like you said, the basic concern would be cost and space, but the good thing is that these aren’t getting worse, they’re actually getting better. A couple of years ago, if you wanted to buy a pretty high-end virtual reality headset, it’d be a couple grands for that set and then the controllers. Now, you can go online and order… Two of the most popular ones nowadays are the Oculus Rift, which is around $400, and the HTC Vive for around $600, and that comes with the headset, the cables, the controllers, and all that. But what you need on top of that is a pretty high-end computer, so not just a typical laptop. It probably has to be a computer with video cards and a pretty good amount of memory to be able to run these programs. Your initial investment today for a nice virtual reality headset, controllers, and a computer would probably be about 2 grands or so, starting from scratch. And like you mentioned, the replacement cycle… As long as they’re still making the software for these, it’d be a couple of years, kind of like replace your Play Station. So you gotta get from PS1 to all the way to PS4 every few years. You can upgrade it, but you can also still play your PS1 if you want to, it’s still there, it still works. I think it will kinda be like that. To get something in the break room, I don’t think it would cost much more than setting up a nice TV with a nice PS4, and I am sure a lot of employers have that in breakrooms or on their campuses somewhere.
So I think the cost is one thing, but space is another thing. Right now you need about minimum of about a meter squared for each person to play, but if you want to start moving around you’re going to want to make that a little larger, up to two or three meters, so that’s a pretty good size room. We run this in our labs so we can set up one, maybe two of these at a time, but what we’re looking into doing in the next year is putting this into the gym setting and doing group classes where we set up three or four of these in a larger room to have them play at once. And that’s really exciting, that’s where we see this going, it’s multiple players playing in one space. But again as the technology gets better, the space confinement is going to get smaller, the headsets are going to get smaller and prices are going to go down. I see this just getting better.
Nick: I know you’ve mentioned this before when you alluded to it… sounds like is launching an employee wellness program that relates to your research and study. Can you describe what exactly is that pilot program? How many pieces of equipment? How often or how was it made available to employees?
Dr. Bagley: So we’re actually really fortunate… Just last year we got a brand-new wellness center on campus, the Mashouf Wellness Center. It’s huge. It’s got gyms and pools and everything like that. We decided to bring one of our VR headsets and setups into the lobby there by a rock-climbing wall and just see if it generated attraction. We didn’t advertise for this or anything, we just set it up in the middle of the lobby, and we had a line of 10 people wanting to play. Obviously only 1 person can play at a time, so they were watching and we got a lot of feedbacks… People really wanted to see this in the gym settings.
In the spring 2018, we’re starting a program at the Mashouf Wellness Center that’s going to first be student-oriented where we’re going to get two or three setups at one time where the students can play a game either against each other or single player games, have it be kinda [inaudible] like here’s your 45 minute workout we’re gonna play a game for 15 minutes, another one for 15 and another one for 15, something similar we’ve been doing in our research.
And then we’re actually also just starting a brand-new employee wellness program called “Fit Plus”, which is for faculty and staff and that’s got traditional, weight training classes, group fitness, swimming, and so it’s great. But we are bringing in another option, we’re a one-hour lunch session you can come and play the virtual reality games. We will measure your heart rate, probably get them involved in the study if they would want to participate so we can get even a broader scope of people because right now our age group is typically, I think our average age is 25. But we’ve had people in their 50s and 60s and absolutely loved playing this virtual reality games.
And I think that once we get this into our employee wellness program this spring, it’s just gonna get bigger and bigger and, again, it’s like anywhere space it’s a is a thing we have to consider, but we’re really dedicating, we’re trying to dedicate a whole room for at least an hour a day to have people play this.
Nick: And with the age being 25, do you think that’s because of gearing it at least initially to students or do you think, that’s a reflection of clearly the interest is most clearly reside with maybe the 20 year olds and 30 year olds, although there will be some interest from older generations or is it just a function of kind of the market you’re targeting at San Francisco State?
Dr. Bagley: Well if you look at any research done at universities, which is a large majority of research you’re gonna find the average age of the subject populations probably 18 to 26 or whatever college age are. Because that’s where you know we get most people interested in being subjects, but like you said I think the demographic for this much larger probably starting from the 18 to 40 year range, but video games have been around for a long time now. If you played pong and Atari back in the day and even before that, you could play arcades. I think that we’re getting older generations really excited, about these new ways to play video games that can be exercised and aren’t what people always thought of as being something for couch potatoes or something, where you’re not going to get any exercise out of it.
I think the demographics in our studies just probably due to the fact, that we’re collecting information from a college campus. But it’s gonna be expanding and we’re getting a pretty wide range of ages.
Nick: And if you’re an employer, you’re thinking okay we’re gonna block even a pilot two sets of hardware to allow people participate, what’s the cycle time? I know you have four areas or four stations, for your pilot. What’s the time it takes to get started, how long should they be doing it? Are you looking at… in an hour, you can do two full cycles so with four stations you have eight people that can participate an hour. How quickly can that cycle through and is there time to switch people in and out? What does that look like?
Dr. Bagley: I think it really it depends on how long people have to play and the intensity they want to be playing the game at. I know a lot of people have an hour lunch break, just not very long [inaudible], pretty solid workout done an hour with time to change and shower and everything too, so what we’re doing… our time that we’ve done it’s been 45 minutes that can easily be… say you have a half hour, where you know say somebody comes in obviously we sanitize the headsets wipe them down, that takes seconds. Cleaning them up set up a new game takes about a minute. put somebody on a warm-up phase of a game that might run five or ten minutes. And then they can play about 20 minutes of pretty high intensity, do a light cooldown, and then you know there’s a 30-minute workout where they were working at moderate to vigorous intensity which is a you know exactly what the American College of Sports Medicine recommends daily, is to try to get you know 30 minutes of exercise in almost days of the week.
We can meet the guidelines that are these governing bodies have said are what we’re shooting for in a short amount of time with this. And it can be pretty feasible like you said to run one person for a half hour switch them out real quick, run another person for a half hour, and so if you had four setup so you can run eight people through that hour. And it these things I’m not gonna say they run themselves, but you press play you clean them, and they’re good to go. You might want to have somebody around to troubleshoot in case the computer breaks or crashes or whatever but other than that it’s pretty easy to run once you’ve done it, once or twice yourself.
Nick: As you go through your pilot for the employee side, not the student side, [inaudible] has there been conversations of you know what a success look like, obviously with the limited number of four stations, I imagine, that only having an hour per day. You’ll be fairly booked I would think. Is the goal called winter or the next semester the fall semester 2018 to potentially launch it broadly, have you kind of thought about what it takes to implement? And I don’t even know how many employees San Francisco State has, but what it takes to save this is to be something that we’re doing more than just as a pilot or a small program we really want to make this available to the broader population. What that would take to actually do? And is that even the consideration?
Dr. Bagley: Yeah what we’re doing right now is, we’re looking at what other – they’re calling them VR arcades are doing and they’re not that many of them yet. They’re popping up everywhere from Ohio to South Korea to China, where you can go in and they’ve got dozens of VR headsets with 3D treadmills, where you can you know walk on a treadmill while you’re playing in a short area and kind of looking at seeing what these bigger industry people are doing to get people to play VR. And kind of going off that I don’t you know at San Francisco States a pretty large school we’ve got several thousand employees, and we’ve got hundreds of people in our employee wellness program.
So I don’t really ever see it in the least in the near future, where everybody can get one of these you know maybe in a decade though a headset will be a piece of like glasses, that you would just wear and anybody can do it. But for the foreseeable future we’ll probably shoot to get again four, five, six of these setups in one room. We can run people through. I imagine that people will probably get excited that they’re playing it multiple times a week that they might buy it for home. And that that’s kind of the goal just to get more people to see this as something that they can do at the gym, at the arcade, at home and it’s kind of could become part of their life. Just like it would be get like getting a treadmill or getting a piece of exercise equipment at your home, not that many people have that. but there’s enough to say that this could be a big thing to get people moving and actually enjoy what they’re doing as well.
Nick: For sure! One of the things I think about, on the employee well side – less than you’re gonna give everyone a piece of hardware for this. But could you have a conference room or in this case you in your case you have a new wellness center or a room is dedicated rather than just for an hour, it’s available around the clock or during the hours of operation of the gym, which is you know in the morning to the evening. Someone can go online they can sign up if you had those 3D treadmills. that can me or make it really really efficient to have you know in that room 40 stations or something. Could it be one of those on-demand, accessible for anyone who wants to join, obviously they can rush for time come in do a program for 30 minutes to an hour, have that automatically be fed into their wellness programs and maybe there were earning incentives and rewards for participate in the virtual reality, the same way they’re getting incentives and rewards for taking steps outside the gym. Something along those lines, almost like to your say like a virtual reality arcade.
Dr. Bagley: Yeah I think that’s definitely where it’s going. and like I said right now base I don’t know that many companies, that have just an extra, thousand square feet to give to virtual reality yet. But if this becomes a big deal with people, they want it to be part of their experience in their gym. Treadmills take up a lot of space. those big weight stacks, knee extension machines take up, you know huge amount of space. If we get rid of a few of those in a space we could put in three or four of these setups. Yeah and I could see it being something that could definitely be part of a gym/VR arcade, where people can go and exercise.
And you know it’s something where they can get on for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be a set forty minute – here’s you know you can do people might have a sign-in sheet, and say “okay, you do you have a half hour whenever on this get on and play whatever games you want” I mean they’re still gonna get more exercise than if they were sitting at a desk or sitting at lunch or whatever. It doesn’t have to be so regimented. I can kind of see the benefits of having a really regimented VR gaming kind of class [inaudible] having it individualized, but I think it’s gonna be a mix of both. Just like maybe some people go to spin class twice a week, then three days a week, they’ll ride the bike by themselves. So it might be something that can integrate into their own wellness fitness plan that any way they wants it’s more customizable I think.
Nick: It reminds me a little bit of Wellable’s early history, we actually worked out of the PayPal space in Boston. We were part of a PayPal program called starting, and when we were there one of the things PayPal did was open up a treadmill desk. so there’s some extra space it wasn’t even in a room, it was actually right next to a window so you can come overlook the Boston Harbor, and they had a treadmill desk you could sign up it wasn’t even technology-oriented signup process literally was just a printed-out sheet opened up every morning. where you came in write down your name and we just so packed people could book 15-minute slots and it was just always full you couldn’t get in and by the time we left the PayPal office space. they already had three of those treadmill desks lined up right next to each other, took fairly minimal space, and I can’t imagine the number of people per month unique individuals that were benefiting from that. there was such a logical and easy thing for them to invest in from an employee health or wellness perspective. I kind of almost think about the same way as the virtual reality – you could probably fit three of those kind of 3D treadmill desks or treadmill stations right next to each other same space, kind of in two corner you don’t need a dedicated room how sign-up sheet and you’re kind of touching a lot of people. it’s a cool benefit from an employee retention engagement perspective as well.
Dr. Bagley: Yeah definitely. If you think about it you know the standing treadmill or the I mean the standing desks or the treadmill desks, those were kind of really new not that long ago and not that many people have them. And now you’d walk around and I know if I go to the admin office on campus here or any tech company in the Bay Area, there’s going to be dozens of treadmill desks everywhere. So I think as it gets more popular, obviously, that makes it’s more incentive for companies to build more of these. More companies building them, price goes down, and I think we’re just gonna see this more and more at people’s homes and at the office as well. And like I said right now if when you go online and you look at what the VR headsets look like now, I think in 10 years we’re gonna look back and kind of laugh and be like ‘those were so funny and big’. It’s just kind of like if you look back early 90s VR tech. You can actually Google 90’s virtual reality versus modern virtual reality, and you’ll see these giant headsets it looks like helmet and the graphics look, you know what the old like what you would think of as early 90’s graphics and now it’s gotten so much better. I think in the 2020s and 30s it’s going to be like you throw on some glasses and you’re in your office. and you’re able to play, you’re able to box against Floyd Mayweather or whatever in your office for 10 minutes, take your glasses off sit back down and go back to work. I think that’s where it’s going just right now it’s so new that we need to kind of get things like the VR Health Institute and other institutes and companies out to spread the word that this is a viable form of exercise.
Nick: Absolutely. that’s a really good segue to my final question before we wrap it up here. I imagine – to my knowledge, you’re the only researcher NS that the VR Institute is the only institute or organization, really exploring this. I imagine that’s gonna change as virtual reality gets more popular. But as someone who’s an employer, especially in the Bay Area where they’re very kind of tech forward or progressive and they’re thinking and they’re thinking about launching a program like this similar to the pilot you have with your employer or San Francisco State. Have you seen a lot interest there? I am trying to get a sense of – This sounds cool. It’s definitely it seems like it’s getting significant traction on the consumer side. I only know of one employer which is yours, which makes sense, piloting virtual reality, but do you get a lot of phone calls similar to the way you get developers going to rate games asking about what it takes to have an employee wellness program that incorporates virtual reality or anything as it relates to employee wellness? Do you feel or hear about in your day-to-day research that this is coming through fruition, in building momentum quicker and quicker?
Dr. Bagley: Like I said I didn’t even get into the space until about a year and a half ago, and I didn’t even thought of virtual reality gaming as exercise. And since that time, we’ve seen big companies start coming out with stuff like you’re gonna see some new VR tech from Microsoft coming out this year, the PlayStation VR came out last year. All these companies are starting to come out with their own headsets. I’m sure you know Apple is probably working on something they’re really secretive about everything. But in the next couple years it’s gonna be really popular from a consumer standpoint at home.
I think they’re gonna probably target people like normal gamers at home first. And then it’s probably gonna move into the business realm and employee wellness, but I haven’t really heard anybody besides us and a few other VR arcades that are already doing this, kind of as a separate space to think about it at exercise. We’re kind of the first group that’s doing it but I mean like you said, you know I’m on this podcast so it’s starting to get out there, I think that over the next year, you’re gonna see companies. It’ll be like just in the break room at first, you’ll see like how the Wii was in a break room probably a decade ago.
Now you’ll see a VR headset and people will be like “what’s that?”, they’ll play it once. I think we should get this at the gym and it’s just gonna spread. But as again as the technology gets more affordable, it’s almost a no-brainer and a hundred or even a couple thousand dollars to get this set up just to see how it’s working, and I think we’re kind of doing that we’ve got some people there that are donating some some headsets to us, we can actually do this relatively affordable to start with. but you know the goal for everybody is to – 1, everybody [inaudible] and then as time goes on let’s see how expansive this can get in every space from you know employee wellness to somebody just at home.
Nick: Great, well thank you so much Dr. Bagley. I really enjoyed the conversation, looking forward to hearing all the good research and things that you’re doing at the Institute, and we appreciate your time.
Dr. Bagley: Yeah thanks Nick. I appreciate it. Be back any time!
Nick: For those you listening don’t forget to join the conversation on Twitter, our handles @GetWellable, also again we want to hear from you so send me an email and nick(at)wellable(dot)co with your comments, thoughts, ideas for future episodes. Thanks again for joining us, have a great day.
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