Facebook to Buy LA-Based VR Fitness Startup Within as It Enters the Metaverse
Just one day after its much-anticipated rebrand to Meta, Facebook announced that it will be buying Within, the LA-based creator of VR fitness app Supernatural. This also comes on the heels of the tech giant’s unceremonious dropping of its Oculus brand, which housed all of the VR games it has acquired so far.
Although the Oculus brand is no more, Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s CTO-in-waiting, said in a lengthy Facebook post that “the original Oculus vision remains deeply embedded in how Meta will continue to drive mass adoption for VR today.” Indeed, the company has spent the last several years scooping up popular VR studios like the makers of Lone Echo and Beat Saber. Now, the addition of Supernatural will help it “enhance future hardware to support VR fitness apps, encouraging other developers to bring new fitness experiences to VR,” Meta’s VP of Play Jason Rubin wrote in a recent blog post.
“We believe fitness will be a massive success in VR where multiple third-party fitness apps can succeed,” Rubin continued.
Launched in 2020, Supernatural provides music-based cardio exercises — similar to Beat Saber — that virtually place the user in settings like Machu Picchu and Mars. It offers guided workouts and meditations, too. In light of this latest acquisition, the company will continue to operate independently as part of Meta’s new Reality Labs, and will keep creating more fitness, wellness and social experiences in VR. It will also retain its existing staff of coaches, choreographers and managers.
“We are excited because our partnership with Meta will have more resources to expand and bring you even more music, more creative ways to workout, more features and more social experiences for VR,” Within CEO Chris Milk and head of fitness Leanne Pedante wrote in a joint blog post. “We have seen the life changing effects when people connect with their inner athlete, and we want to help as many people as possible do exactly that.”
Of course, this news is coming at a time when home fitness has been all the rage thanks to the pandemic, and tech companies are scrambling to come up with new ways to keep users engaged. Recent standouts like Ergatta and Liteboxerhave garnered investor attention for their attempts to gamify the industry; and Hydrow, which offers a tech-enabled rowing machine, recently pulled in a nine-figure round of funding from stars like Lizzo, Justin Timberlake and Kevin Hart.
Now, as the newly christened Meta embarks on its mission to build the metaverse, it will be interesting to see how the company fits into this burgeoning space.
“Virtual reality and the metaverse bring us all the opportunity to connect and share experiences in meaningful and magical ways,” Rubin said. “We, and the team at Supernatural, envision a bright future where people are excited to show up for their daily workout, tap into their inner athlete, and connect with a huge community of support. We can’t wait for what’s ahead.”