Augmented Reality Climbing Walls Turn Mountaineering Into a Game

There are lots of reasons to tackle a climbing wall at your local gym: it's great exercise, it can improve your hand-eye coordination, and it helps instill useful mountaineering skills should you ever find yourself trapped on a cliff. But researchers at Aalto University in Finland want to take them one step further through the use of Kinect sensors and projectors that turn climbing walls into interactive games.

Climbers are encouraged to move about on the wall while they try to avoid animated obstacles that randomly cross their paths, but the system isn't just about games. Since the Kinect sensor can track a climber's position on the wall, the augmented reality projections can be used as a way to show an amateur climber where the next best hold might be. Or it could just be used to record a climb, providing valuable replay info as a climber works to improve their technique.

Right now the setup is only working in a lab, but because it uses readily available electronics like projectors and the Xbox's Kinect sensor, it can be easily implemented anywhere, and its creators are working on installing one in an actual indoor climbing facility this fall. [New Scientist]