Augmented Climbing Games
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