Laser tracker replays competitive rock wall climbs


Instructables user [PenfoldPlant] is a big fan of indoor rock climbing, and while watching others make difficult climbs, he has often wondered if he could follow the same route up the wall. Unfortunately, aside from watching the other climbers and hoping to remember the path they have taken, he found there isn’t much you can do to ensure that you have precisely replicated the climb.

He thought awhile and came up with a laser tracking system that can be used to record a climber’s ascent, then replay it any number of times. This allows climbers to be able to replicate other climbers’ paths as well as compete against one another in timed races.

This works much like the “ghost” feature found in most racing games, though the process is half manual/half automated. The initial ascent is recorded by manually tracing the climber’s route with a laser pointer as they climb. The path is recorded and then can be replayed, courtesy of the onboard Arduino.

It really is a neat system, and while it works pretty well already, we think there is still room for enhancement. It wouldn’t be extremely difficult to have the climber wear some sort of light beacon that could be tracked using a web cam or other recording device, taking the manual labor out of the equation. In that case however, we imagine the Arduino would need to be swapped out for something a touch more powerful.

Stick around for a quick video of the tracking system in action.


  1. Harvie.CZ says:

    I would be way more cool to have 4 lasers – each tracking one hand or leg, so you can see which grip points oponent used to climb.

  2. pablo says:

    Ooh, this could combine with a laser projector- wear some motion-tracking reflectors, get tracked by Kinect/webcam, have laser projector show a stick figure climbing the wall. You might need to put a color filter on the camera to avoid having it track the laser projection instead of the climber, though.

  3. Thopter says:

    I would like to see grips with LEDs and touch sensors in them used in this way. Maybe RGB LEDs so they change colour based on hand or foot use. Kinda like the keyboards that light up to tell you which note to play next.

  4. Simon says:

    Harvie is right. Without tracking the hand and foot movements of the climber, there’s nothing that you can learn about how the climb was done. To be really useful, it would need to track body position as well. That way you could project a stick figure of the climbers movements. You’d probably have to be a climber to understand why.

    This isn’t a criticism of the work that he’s done. I think that it’s really cool. It’s just that it would be better suited to tracking something else.

  5. cole says:

    For the automated tracking you could use to IR led on the helmet. Then mount a wiimote camera and laser pointer on a pan and tilt rig. That way it could track and then replay the run.

  6. Valen says:

    if your going to “ghost” it, why not film the climb, run it through some fairly simple image processing (image subtraction should be sufficient)
    then replay it through a projector.

    if you get the registration right you have now got a “ghost climber”

  7. JeremyC says:

    That’s a really good idea! Nice hack!

    @Valen – I like that idea too. Love to see it implemented.

  8. JeremyC says:

    Ok, that is a good idea, but how is it actually tracking the route? All it’s doing is tracking the person’s position, not the actual holds he/she is using. Good for competing against yourself though.

  9. axodus says:

    if the mechanical system is fast enough it might be nice trying to trace the route taken on the wall as a continuous line, so it will be easier to follow.

  10. anon says:

    seems like the new predator object tracking AI could help quite a bit in this.

  11. BeastachuLV16 says:

    I saw somewhere there was a Flip camera base that some guys were working on that automatically followed a target via a “badge” the target held. It caused a sort of magnetic attraction to be able to pan the camera perfectly. Perhaps this tracker would work better if the initial recording were traced in a similar method. This would prevent jerky movement and provide a more fluid accurate “ghost” on replay.

    Kewl concept tho.

  12. Luke says:

    I could imagine using a primesensor to record depth and color thoughout a climb and then program the path from a odd color (not in an environment) for each of ur 4 hands.. use a cnc driver for a path of each color and each laser and instead use 2 calibrated stepper motors for a smother less kaotic trace.

    asa mater of fact.. find out how cnc machines sense objects alone and traces them without aid to then replicate what they traced. basically ur climb wall will be ur table and ur person is your path tool. make for a big non portable cnc lol or just alter the axis to tilt.. no need for 3 axis either way

    lol why not project a person on there from recording,

  13. smoketester says:

    Nice to see such a positive streak of critiques and ideas for improvement. Thinking IPv6 like, how about individual addresses for each hold and unique RFID wrist and ankle bracelets for climbers.

  14. dmcbeing says:

    Nice idea but heres one better:
    Kinnect (its the new craze..)
    +pan$tilt mechanism
    +projector =
    Real ghost :D

  15. Whatnot says:

    It’s interesting to see how he put it together from wood, but the setup seems pretty silly and useless and as if it could be done so much better.
    I guess there’s always time to wait for v2.0.

  16. JB says:

    I enjoy a good hack. I also enjoy a good rock climb, primarily outdoors. One thing that confuses the heck out of me about this is that indoor climbing routes are set either with colored tape or colored holds to mark the ones you are supposed to use. This is how climbers guarantee they are climbing the same route. Using holds not marked for the same route is considered cheating, and success and failure has more to do with body position, how you grasp and apply pressure to the holds, and physical conditioning. Now if you were using the tracking device to aim a camera to automatically film the climber, that might have a purpose.

  17. xsoulp says:

    what do u think?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,562 other followers