Widerun is bringing virtual reality to indoor cycling


This interactive bike trainer is designed to deliver engaging fitness sessions through VR headsets. 


Let’s face it, stationary biking can be boring. But what if, during your workout, you were suddenly immersed in an intense uphill battle in the Tour de France, a leisurely ride along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, or a thrilling escape from zombies in a Walking Dead-like post-apolocayptic world? That may soon be a reality thanks to one Italian startup that has debuted on Kickstarter.

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While turbo trainers that allow avid cycling enthusiasts to use their actual bike indoors is fairly common, Widerun is a smart bike trainer designed to connect to virtual reality head-mounted units. At the moment, the system offers support for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, as well as other mobile VR displays. Widerun pairs to either a PC or smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy with a theoretical distance over 100 meters.

Everything on the bike functions as it would had you actually been riding in these various settings. Meaning, when you switch gears to cycle faster or slower, Widerun transmits the real-world changes caused by the cyclist into the virtual world. As a true plug-and-play system, users don’t need a special bike to enjoy an immersive VR cycling experience. Instead, Widerun accommodates any piece of equipment with a wheel radius between 26″ to 29” — no adjustments necessary.

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What’s more, Widerun features real-time, coherent feedback between your movement and your reaction in the VR world.

“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,” the team writes. In other words, a rider will feel as if they are climbing mountains, breezing through forests or descending steep hills, as the trainer will automatically regulate its resistance.

Beyond that, Widerun also offers gamification and community elements that encourage users to choose among various VR settings to ride, engage with other cyclists, locate people to challenge, and monitor their performance history.

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In order to create the most optimal VR biking experience possible, the team designed Widerun with two components: the trainer itself and a steering part that appears to be based on an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4). An embedded MCU receives inputs from both the game environment and the bike trainer to regulate back the electrical signals to match the virtual experience the user is having, such as steering degree, speed magnitude and ground resistance.

Widerun hopes to get other VR software developers onboard in the coming months. The team notes, “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!”

Interested? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the Widerun team is currently seeking £30,000. Shipment is expected to begin early next year. 

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