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.


17 thoughts on “Laser Tracker Replays Competitive Rock Wall Climbs

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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,

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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