Playpulse Secures $2M for Its Gamified Fitness Bike

Image: Playpulse

Playpulse, makers of a gamified fitness bike, raised $2M in new funding to accelerate its immersive exercise experience.

Courtside Ventures and Initial Capital joined the round, as well as individual contributions from ex-Peloton exec Jasmine Maietta, Jamie Brooker and Johan Brand from Kahoot, and others.

The Real “Fortnite of Fitness”

In Issue No. 90, The Metaverse of Fitness, we wrote: “The future of fitness looks more like Fortnite than Peloton.” Building on that thesis, in Issue No. 131, Fitness 3.0, we mused “The future of fitness looks like a game.”

Born in a lab at Norway University of Science and Technology, co-founding trio Erling Magnus Solheim, Kristoffer Hagen, and Stian Weie have spent the past five years turning an exercise bike into a video game console.

While others have added games as an ancillary offering, Playpulse gameplay is integrated to the core with its signature bike, the Playpulse One. With a robust and powerful graphics card, the system powers numerous gaming worlds users can explore by spinning revolutions on high-precision pedals. Its handlebars feature Xbox-like controllers, complete with haptic feedback responsive to your experience on a 24-inch touchscreen.

Outside of online multiplayer games, the connected bike offers access to streaming services. The catch: The feed shuts off if you stop pedaling.

Name of the Game

Playpulse emerges at a unique juncture in the collective health of Americans.

  • One in seven US adults are physically inactive, and one in four fail to meet physical activity standards.
  • 45.7% of children aged five to 11 are considered overweight or obese, compared to 36% pre-pandemic.
  • The impact of obesity on the US economy has eclipsed $1.7T.

An existing trend worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, physical exertion for both kids and adults is plummeting.

A likely combination of mental stress, restricted access to public spaces and gyms due to shutdowns, and ever-increasing screen time, the desire to exercise is reaching an all-time low. And motivation may be the name of the game.

Ready Player One

Sensing the opportunity to gamify fitness, countless fitness tech companies are making a play.

  • Peloton will launch a fitness game called Lanebreak in early 2022.
  • Virtual cycling trainer Zwift has raised $600M to date and launched its own esports league.
  • VR boxing experience Quell secured $3M in late 2020.
  • NEX, creators of fitness-focused mobile gaming app Active Arcade, just landed $25M in Series B funding.

Zooming out: Playpulse enters at a time when a growing host of challengers have seen the writing on the wall: Gaming is hot, getting active for the love of a good sweat is not.

It’s not without controversy, though. While a workout disguised as a video game follows the evidence of intrinsic motivation, putting an exclusive, bike-shaped controller into our hands may keep the greater (and struggling) population on the sidelines.