Boise startup wins tech award in Las Vegas

Boise startup Black Box VR won Best Startup at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12, after being named one of 15 CES 2018 Innovation Awards honorees earlier in the week. The company, founded and self-funded by Bodybuilding.com alumni Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, is developing a virtual reality gamified exercise system, first for dedicated gyms but eventually for home use.

photo of Preston Lewis, cofounder and chief creative officer of Black Box VR
Preston Lewis, cofounder and chief creative officer of Black Box VR

The company intends to open its first gym in San Francisco in the next six months, with a second phase for hotels and inside other gyms and a third phase for in-home use, said Lewis, chief creative officer. Eventually, the product could feature real-time synchronous play, where two people in different locations could be matched, he said.

Located in Boise’s BoDo neighborhood, Black Box VR has been in business 18 months and has 10 full-time employees as well as a number of contractors, Lewis said. He and DeLuca, chief executive officer, have invested $2 million in it thus far and are now considering venture capital and other equity partners. In addition, they have founded the Idaho Virtual Reality Council, a nonprofit intended to get kids interested in virtual reality “and keep as many jobs here as possible,” he said.

While the system isn’t the first virtual reality-based exercise product, “it was the first time I’ve genuinely enjoyed using traditional workout equipment,” reported Tom’s Guide reviewer Michael Andronico.