Aug­mented Climb­ing Games

Climbing - - THE APPROACH OFF THE WALL - BY BREN­DAN BLAN­CHARD

WHILE THE REST of us have been play­ing add-on at the gym, the folks at Aug­mented Climb­ing Wall have taken climb­ing-based games to a new level. First launched as a re­search project in Fin­land, the Aug­mented Climb­ing Wall be­came an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion after videos of the in­ter­ac­tive games hit the web. With a cam­era, pro­jec­tor, and com­puter soft­ware, the project’s de­vel­op­ers have cre­ated an in­ter­ac­tive game of plas­tic pulling. We spoke to CEO Raine Ka­jastila about the plat­form and its de­vel­op­ment.

De­scribe the Aug­mented Climb­ing Wall.

It com­bines mo­tion track­ing and pro­jected graph­ics to cre­ate fun but chal­leng­ing in­ter­ac­tive games, as well as more se­ri­ous train­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. Ba­si­cally, you can point our sys­tem at an or­di­nary climb­ing wall and turn it into a huge touch­screen and gam­ing plat­form.

What sparked the idea?

When I was a post-doc re­searcher, I stud­ied how tech­nol­ogy can be used to mo­ti­vate peo­ple to ex­er­cise more, or teach spe­cific skills in sports. There was an ob­vi­ous match between the tech­nol­ogy and climb­ing, which I’ve been prac­tic­ing for over 15 years. The first demo videos back in 2013 sparked in­ter­est in other climbers around the world, and I was begged to make it as a com­mer­cial prod­uct. One thing that slowed the time to mar­ket was find­ing out that even dust-pro­tected pro­jec­tors are killed by fine mag­ne­sium dust (Ed.: chalk). After de­stroy­ing sev­eral pro­jec­tors, we de­signed a pro­tec­tive en­clo­sure for the pro­jec­tor that fil­ters out mag­ne­sium.

What's your fa­vorite climb­ing game?

I like the sim­plic­ity of Whack-a-Bat, which has been an in­stant hit among kids and adults alike. It was de­vel­oped as an end­less en­durance trainer, but we quickly added more hec­tic game modes. But, you can’t beat the two-player ball game Clim­ball, which is just some­thing you don’t ex­pect to do on a climb­ing wall.

Does the Aug­mented Wall of­fer any unique train­ing ben­e­fits?

Yes, es­pe­cially Aug­mented Prob­lems. It al­lows any­body—not just pro­fes­sional route-set­ters—to de­sign routes quickly and share them with oth­ers. How­ever, the great­est train­ing fea­ture is the au­to­matic video feed­back that’s pro­jected on the wall. You can in­stantly com­pare your climb­ing tech­nique to oth­ers and learn from it.

Does the best rock climber al­ways win?

Not al­ways. Of course, be­ing strong and fast helps you con­cen­trate bet­ter on the game. But there are also ran­dom com­po­nents that give every­one the po­ten­tial for high scores. Also, I think that climb­ing is about com­pet­ing against your­self and find­ing cre­ative ways to solve prob­lems, whether they’re aug­mented or tra­di­tional.

How large can the walls be?

Cur­rently, the max­i­mum di­men­sions are about 12 by 15 feet. We have been do­ing some de­vel­op­ment for higher walls—but, shhh, it’s a se­cret. We have al­ready re­ceived many or­ders from the United States. In Novem­ber 2016, the Aug­mented Wall was fea­tured in the amuse­ment-park ex­po­si­tion (IAAPA) in Florida. At least there, the cus­tomers were mostly in­door play and ac­tiv­ity parks. Th­ese places are per­fect for in­tro­duc­ing kids to climb­ing, and what bet­ter way than with games? Were there any un­ex­pected chal­lenges bring­ing Aug­mented Climb­ing to mar­ket? How has in­ter­est been so far? — FE­BRU­ARY / MARCH 2017

CLIM­BALL WHACK-A-BAT AUG­MENTED PROB­LEMS SPARKS

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