A man wearing a Meta Quest VR headset using the Liteboxer VR exercise system
TECHNOLOGY

Liteboxer VR: A Fitness Tech Contender in Action

I never imagined I’d break a sweat doing a virtual reality workout. Liteboxer VR proved me wrong.

Boston-based Liteboxer is an at-home fitness company that developed a mini tech-enabled boxing ring. The company’s hardware solution is a new-age punching bag.

Liteboxer’s interactive “shield” is equipped with LED runway lights that lead to six targets, sensors that can detect the force behind punches, and sync to a mobile app to track progress. The Liteboxer shield can be attached to a floor stand or mounted on a wall.

Liteboxer launched in July 2020 with its flagship shield, and at CES this past January, the company announced its next big venture: Liteboxer VR. Liteboxer’s virtual reality component takes its boxing solution even more virtual. Liteboxer VR officially hit the market on March 3 for Meta Quest users, and I’ve been testing out the tech this month on my Meta Quest 2.

Liteboxer VR’s virtual shield records how many targets you hit, how fast and hard you punch, and how many punches you actually land. The platform is loaded with more than 400 trainer-led classes and over 100 sparring sessions. Liteboxer VR lets users enter freestyle mode to learn the shield and practice, and users can box to their favorite songs in Punch Track mode.

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Disclaimer: I’m a new Quest 2 user and hadn’t played around with VR this in-depth until I tried Liteboxer VR. As an avid gym-goer, I found that this new type of workout tested my strength and mental acuity more than usual.

And before we dive in, some of my quick, hot takes about Liteboxer VR:

  • It’s a fun alternative for cardio and you can really break a sweat if you get into it.
  • It was a little overwhelming and fast-paced, but the repetition helped me catch on quickly.
  • If you’ve never boxed before (like me), some extra freestyle punching would help before hopping into a workout for the first time.
  • The guided videos being on the side was a little quirky. I was expecting some sort of virtual trainer pushing me through workouts.
  • The music selection is great. So many vibes to choose from.

Breaking a Sweat

Liteboxer VR interface in action.

Cardio is usually my roughest day in the gym, so trying out Liteboxer VR as an alternative for the past few weeks has been a blessing in disguise. I stuck to the 10- to 15-minute beginner courses, and unless you hit some freestyle or Punch Track workouts beforehand, it may be challenging to jump right in.

The beginner workouts always start by showing which hand correlates with each target and how your punch form should look. I enjoyed that I could hold the controllers however I saw fit; being able to clench the controller and outer buttons to make a tight fist helped me get in the zone. If you don’t want to clench, you don’t have to — you can still throw some hands all the same.

There is a wide variety of workouts to take on across this platform. I spent some time in freestyle mode just practicing my stance, memorizing which hand correlates with each target, and getting a better feel for new combinations as I learned them. Overall, I was intrigued that I broke a real sweat after my first day trying it out. My arms were actually sore.

I found it cool how I was able to see how many punches I landed overall and my longest punch streak at the end of each workout. The real-time metrics are a definite plus. There is also a ranking system for each course if you want to challenge yourself to climb the ladder.

Aside from the music, hearing my punches land the shield was one of my favorite motivators during workouts. I liked that I could also feel vibrations from the controllers when I would land power punches. This helped fully engulf me in the platform and, at times, made me feel like I was boxing a physical punching bag.

The best part about Liteboxer VR is that I could break this kind of sweat from my living room. The setup process was easy, you don’t need much room to get active, and you can try different workouts at your own pace. As someone who likes to work out alone or one-on-one with a trainer, this virtual setup is appealing.

Room to Grow

Liteboxer claims that users can customize their workouts, but I didn’t get so much of a feel for that outside of the freestyle boxing mode in which I could punch the shield as long as I wanted.

There is a wide range of classes to choose from at different experience levels, and Liteboxer reports that it updates its portfolio of classes weekly. Courses vary in style, length, and song selection. The platform currently has more than 500 trainer-led classes and sparring sessions overall, but they are all pre-recorded, and my educated guess is that they are the same courses that Liteboxer hardware shield owners tap into at home.

This is worth noting because, in between some of the boxing workouts, trainers would stop doing traditional cardio exercises like jumping jacks, lunges, and various stretches. Some of these were hard to do with controllers in my hand, an indication that they weren’t made exclusively for the VR platform. Further, I expected there to be a more in-depth, real-time virtual trainer guiding me through workouts. Having a trainer exclusively tailored for VR could also help users stay focused on the shield. As a new boxer, I often looked off to the side to watch the trainer-led videos to learn punch combos. I would often miss punches on the shield because of this.

Additionally, Liteboxer VR doesn’t alert you if you’re, say, punching with the wrong hand. For example, I could do an entire workout punching with my left hand and be credited with the same stats using both hands. It would be nice to get dinged when I’m punching with the wrong hand so I can take notes and improve more quickly.

As for Punch Track mode, you are boxing solely to the beat of the music. Unfortunately, I found this very difficult because you don’t know which punch combo is coming up next. While I know this is a big part of staying sharp, you have to be very attentive and follow those quick and short green LED runway lights to keep up –it’s not beginner-level stuff.

Despite these occasional issues, I’m excited to see how Liteboxer expands its investment in VR.

Fit for the Future

Liteboxer VR has surpassed 100,000 downloads since its launch, a company rep told Boardroom. The platform is available for purchase in the Oculus Store for users in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the UK. VR-only users will pay $18.99 a month, while users who already own a Liteboxer shield get free access to the VR experience. Either way, investing in a Quest 2 and paying for Liteboxer VR is much more affordable than the company’s IRL boxing shield setup, which ranges from $1,495 to $1,695.

Liteboxer has raised $28.5 million in venture capital, according to a recent press release, including a $20 million Series A led by Nimble Ventures last summer. Liteboxer has earned accolades, including Best in Gaming by Wired for Liteboxer VR at CES 2022. The company made Fast Company’s 2022 list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, landing at No. 7 in the gaming category.

Liteboxer will be rolling out new features this week to help users fully immerse themselves in its VR boxing workouts. If you have a Quest 2, you can tap into a seven-day free trial of Liteboxer VR.

If you do, drop me a line at michelai@boardroom.tv and let me know what you think

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