New Mid-Market gym to 'gamify' fitness using virtual reality

A new gym set to open in Mid-Market next week is aiming to turn your fitness routine into a VR game.

Founded in 2016 by Preston Lewis and Ryan DeLuca, Black Box VR spent three years refining its technology in preparation for opening its flagship store in Fox Plaza (1390 Market St.) on March 11th.

Lewis and DeLuca are self-described fitness fanatics who previously built online supplement site Bodybuilding.com

They decided to open their first gym in Mid-Market because “it is a premier location for the headquarters of some of the largest technology companies in the world,” including Twitter, Uber, Dolby and Square, Lewis told us.

The neighborhood boasts "a great population of live/work tech and fitness enthusiasts,” he added.

Black Box's first location will open next week in Fox Plaza. | Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

Each of Black Box's 30- to 40-minute workouts combines resistance training with high-intensity cardio. Using game-based VR scenarios, the exerciser can compete against their own past performance, another player, or both.

Exercisers are each given a solo 10' x 10' room to work out, where they don a VR headset and wearable devices that track their hand positioning, then execute their workouts on the company's proprietary resistance training machine. 

Black Box will be starting out by selling a limited number of "Hero Access Passes" that are first-come, first-served, Lewis said. Each access pass is $199/month for unlimited use.

Each membership includes access to the gym's app, which lets users schedule workouts in advance. There are 14 boxes in the new gym, and most workouts last about 30 minutes, so there are up to 28 slots available each hour, Lewis added.

According to Black Box, this technology can level the intensity up (or down) based on an exerciser's ability and effort, as well as coaching proper form. As workout performance improves, the games can change to match exercisers' increased ability. 

Black Box's technology merges resistance training machines with VR gaming. | Photo: Black Box/Facebook

The virtual eSport software is powered by HTC Vive headsets with built-in sweatbands to prevent fogginess and replaceable covers, which are cleaned between uses to ensure they're sanitary.

If the location is successful, Black Box VR aims to expand within San Francisco and “hopefully worldwide,” Lewis said. The company is also exploring options for a home-based version of the system, though that's still several years away as it works to bring the cost of the hardware down. 

In the meantime, game-loving exercisers can sign up for the company's newsletter to be alerted when the gym opens. 


Thanks to tipster Jerry R. for letting us know about the new high-tech gym. See something interesting while you’re out and about? Text Hoodline and we’ll try to find out what's going on: (415) 200-3233.

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