I walked into a Best Buy this weekend and saw something I’ve never seen before — a group of families lined up to try a VR headset, the Meta Quest 3. Two Best Buy employees were stationed at the Meta Quest display to each wipe off a headset between demos and move families through the queue. Meanwhile, the Best Buy employees explained virtual reality to the parents along with the kinds of experiences available to their 10-15 year-olds who were eagerly trying on the headsets.
The kids and parents were likely trying the Quest 3 to see if it will end up on their holiday lists this year. And it’s probably fair to say that they are thinking of it mostly as a game console. However, those parents may or may not realize that there’s a killer app for them on the Quest 3.
It’s a fitness app called Supernatural that takes advantage of several of VR’s best features and some of the Quest 3’s specific strengths to make workouts a lot more fun than using a treadmill, a spin bike, a rowing machine or other expensive exercise equipment. And it can save you space and probably save some money as well.
In the Best Buy example, the parents may find that they can get a Quest for the kids to use for games during the day while the parents can use it to work out in Supernatural in the early mornings or late at night.
Meta Quest 3
Meta’s latest headset is wireless, comfortable to wear, and easy to use. With its latest upgrade to graphics quality, you can enjoy the beautiful, natural scenery in Supernatural in even higher fidelity.
I’ve been using Supernatural for the past two weeks — at the recommendation of my friend Scott Stein from CNET — as part of my testing of the Quest 3 since its launch last month and I’ve been surprised at how quickly I’ve gotten hooked on it. It’s kind of like a mix of the popular VR game Beat Saber and Apple’s Fitness Plus workouts.
In Supernatural, you choose either boxing or flow workouts — flow involves swinging a pair of batons that feel like two lightsabers. You’re transported to breathtaking locations around the world, including some of the most beautiful mountains and beaches, and then you’re guided through the workout by a coach who pumps you up as you use your boxing gloves or batons to hit targets that come flying at you in random formations to match the beats of hit music tracks. (I particularly love the Imagine Dragons mixes.)
I found Supernatural to be incredibly addicting. I paired it to my Apple Watch so that it pulls in heart rate data and shows me how much fitness I’m getting out of the workouts. A 20- or 30-minute workout in Supernatural easily matched the amount of cardio I was getting from my morning spin bike, treadmill, or elliptical workouts, with my heart rate often going up to over 140-150 beats per minute. I’ve essentially traded Supernatural activities for those workouts for two weeks and the biggest surprise has been how much I can’t wait to jump into the workouts in the mornings rather than having to motivate myself to hop on the bike or treadmill. The Supernatural app also throws in meditation and stretching activities.
In an interview with ZDNET, Supernatural’s Jonny Ahdout, product market lead, said “There’s a huge opportunity with people who need fitness and mental health resources and are open to trying out new things and are craving a little bit more engagement and fun so that working out doesn’t feel like something you have to do but something that you actually feel pulled towards because it’s fun and you’re excited about it. And that in and of itself has its own host of mental health benefits.”
Former Peloton executive, Sapna Kirk, now vice president of marketing at Supernatural, added, “We [often] hear that people come to us after injuries or just typical wear and tear on their bodies and Supernatural has been devised in a way that is it can be really gentle on the body while still being a really effective workout.”
I identified with that because I’ve been a runner since I was in high school and love running. But I’ve recently had to give it up because of a hip injury and the general strain on my back and knees. I’ve tried to learn to how love working out on a stationary bike, and the bike workouts in Apple Fitness Plus have helped with that, but it’s still a struggle to get motivated to do those workouts. Supernatural brings the heat. I love the energy and fun it’s brought to working out, and I plan to keep using it.
I was glad to see that Supernatural leaned into those qualities in its new “Unreal Fitness” marketing campaign that launched today. The video, directed by Neels Castillion and produced by Ridley Scott’s RSA films, does a great job of capturing the pace, the music, and the coaching of Supernatural — all while transporting you to a scenic glacier in Iceland.
Supernatural benefits from the fact that the Quest 3 is light (less than a pound at 515g), wireless, easy to use, comfortable, and has improved graphics to enjoy Supernatural’s beautiful locations from around the world.
And while Apple Vision Pro is expected to arrive in early 2024 and bring a lot more attention and interest to virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, it won’t be focused on fitness at launch. That’s probably because the 1.0 version of Vision Pro will be heavier than the Quest 3 at about a pound and will include a separate battery pack that would not make it easy to workout with. It will also cost $3,500, compared to the $500 Quest 3. So, if you’re interested in VR fitness, Supernatural on the Quest 3 is uniquely transformative right now.
That became very clear to me this week when the Quest 3 locked up for about 30 minutes and crashed into an odd Android error screen. It was the only time this happened in my month of testing and there aren’t widespread reports of others running into this issue. However, for those 30 minutes I was seriously bummed at the thought of not being able to do my workouts in Supernatural and having to go back to traditional workout equipment. That was enough to make me want to write this article in case others could benefit from Supernatural, too.
The main drawback I found was that I spend a lot of time in front of screens and my workout time is often some valued time when I’m not staring at bright pixels. Using Supernatural and Quest 3 for cardio workouts means I also need to balance it with time doing other activities like taking a walk or a hike or doing other workouts that don’t involve screen time.
ZDNET’s buying advice
To use Supernatural, you’ll need a Quest 3 ($500) or a Quest 2 (now discounted to $200-$300) and a Supernatural subscription ($9.99 per month or $99.99 per year). That’s an investment, so if you know someone with a Quest 2 or 3 then I’d recommend trying it on their headset before you buy it (and Supernatural has a two-week free trial).
If you compare this to fitness equipment, then a stationary bike can run you $300 or more, a treadmill will cost you $500 or more, and most other equipment will cost more than that. If you compare it to a gym membership, then the average gym in the US will charge you $20-$60 per month for access. Meta offers bundles where you can get a one-year Supernatural subscription with the Quest 2 for $299 (or financed for $28/month) or a Quest 3 for $549 (or financed for $50/month).
But there’s also the fact that with the Quest 3 you can save room in your living space compared to fitness equipment and you can save time by working out from home compared to a gym membership. Beyond that, the biggest reason to get a Quest and use Supernatural is that I’m confident you’ll find you’re more likely to do the workouts because they are a lot more enjoyable and motivating, by nature. One last tip if you do decide to go for it, get a silicone cover for the face pad to protect it from the sweat, because you’ll be generating a lot of it. And if you’re going to be using it on a hard surface, the Supernatural VR workout mat is a good pickup as well.