Video games are a beloved pastime for millions of people. Gamers spend countless collective hours sitting on couches and PC chairs toiling away at the latest games for PCs and consoles. Normally, playing a video game is a sedentary activity, but virtual reality is giving players a reason to get up and start moving. Active VR games have the potential to offer health benefits, and companies are starting to offer peripherals that leverage that concept. In June, VirZoom started shipping its exercise bike peripheral, and shipments for the Virtuix Omni are in progress. And in December, a new company called TReality will ship a bow peripheral that works with archery games.
TReality was on site at Immersed 2016 showing off the benefits of the TBow, an archery peripheral designed for motion controllers. The TBow started off as an accessory for smartphones called the Bowblade, but in 2016 the design shifted to support motion controllers and virtual reality experiences.
We had a chance to speak with Dr. Ron Green, the chiropractor that invented TBow, about the device and the benefits of using it. Dr. Green explained that he adapted the archery bow for gaming because pulling a bow string is a beneficial exercise for your upper back and shoulders. Using a TBow adds an upper body muscle workout to the cardiovascular workout that many active VR archery games already provide.
The TBow peripheral is designed for a motion controller to slot into the handle to give the bow tracking. TReality offers TBows for HTC Vive wands and PlayStation Move controllers, and Dr. Green told us he intends to add support for Sixense STEM and Oculus Touch in the future.
The TBow is also available with two different resistance levels. You can get the youth bow, which provides roughly 5lbs of tension, or you can go for the adult bow, which provides close to 12lbs of resistance. Those tension numbers don’t sound like much, but when you’re playing a game and pulling the string every second or two, it quickly becomes a workout. In fact, Dr. Green suggested that five minutes per arm is enough time to benefit from the exercise.
Currently, the TBow is compatible with 11 games, including Longbow, Holopoint, and Quiver, but there’s little reason why it wouldn’t support all VR archery games that come out in the future. The device allows the Vive or Move controllers to retain their full range of motion, so there’s nothing preventing other games from working with it.
For the public demo, TReality offered a wrist strap bow trigger to help pull the string. The trigger strap helped to pull the bow string while still holding onto the Vive wand. The strap is optional, though, and if you prefer, you can use a finger to pull the cord while holding onto the controller with your other fingers. Dr. Green’s personal preference involves hooking the string with the two square pieces on the Vive wand because he doesn’t have to stop the game to switch hands.
Although Dr. Green invented the TBow, he’s not the only brain behind the operation. Dr. Green recruited Stewart Muirhead as the VR Advisor for TReality. Muirhead is one of the founders of the VR Society, a VR R&D project / VR meetup based in Ontario, and he’s been working in the VR industry for over 20 years. He's helping Dr. Green refine the TBow and prep it for the consumer launch in December.
TReality set the price of the TBow at $70 Canadian ($52 USD) and is currently taking pre-orders for the peripheral. The company plans to ship TBows to the first customers on December 1.