interactive climbing wall


MFA Advanced Product Design | Umeå Institute of Design
2016 | 2 weeks project | in collaboration with André Kennedy (IxD), Christoph Zobl (IxD) & Franziska Heuck (APD)

Core77 Design Award


In Rock Climbing, like many sports, technique is key. It is equally if not more important than physical strength.
In order to train, a climber needs to find a route in the gym that offers what it is they wish to train and fits their level of difficulty. This gives climbers no control, as no gym will ever be big enough to offer such a variety of climbs at every person's level.
Further, unless you are climbing with an experienced climber, there are few ways of getting feedback.


In regular climbing halls, the paths are indicated by holds of different colors and can therefore only be used in one way. Edge creates the tracks through light instead, which makes it possible to create paths that suit every climber's difficulty level and training demands. Moreover, Edge guides you through sounds and vibrations: Specifically designed training bands around wrists and ankles start to vibrate when the respective leg or arm has to be moved.

How can a climbing wall teach you the right technique?

Edge - guiding through light, sound and vibration

Guiding the user

Setting routes through light, sound and vibration

Setting Routes gif

Setting Routes graphic

Adapting to skill level through light

Adapting Difficulty gif

Adapting Difficulty graphic

Indication to shift weight and switch feet through light, sound and vibration

Weight Shifting gif

Weight Shifting graphic

Interface - start training here!


Intelligent climbing computer

An intelligent app tracks the personal development of each user and creates tracks and tasks according to their training needs. The tracks also depend on the climber's size to make sure that the holds are not too easy or hard to grap. Therefore each climber will be measured when they create a profile.
Moreover the device provides training statistics to the climber.

Analysing the route before the climb

Exploring the UX


Guiding through sound

Test: Guiding through sound

Whilst Chris is playing a sound from a mobile phone, André and me have our eyes closed and point in the direction of the sound. Most of the times the pointing was quite accurate.

Guiding through vibration and light

Test: Guiding through haptic feedback and light

Four muted phones are attached to Franzis wrists and ankles.
Calling one phone at a time, Franzi has to sense at which arm or leg she feels a vibration and move accordingly.
Next level: We use a laserpointer to point at the markings on the floor. Franzi now has to move the respective leg/arm where she felt the vibration to the pointed spot.

Guiding through vibration

Test: Guiding through haptic feedback

Just like Franzi in the previous test, André has muted phones attached to wrists and ankles and tries to move the leg/arm of the called (=vibrating) phone. We found out that the haptic feedback also works whilst climbing.

Wizard of OZ

Wizard of OZ

To make sure that the guidance is self-explaining, we invited multiple people to test our "Wizard of OZ". Without much explanation, they should do what they felt the product guides them to do.
We used different methods to guide the user: Attaching mobile phones to their arms that would vibrate, pointing at a hold with a laser pointer and playing a sound from the hold's direction whilst the user is blindfolded.

Model Making

1:1 Model for the movie and presentation purposes

As a next step we built a simulating hold-prototype using a deep-drawn shell and an Ardunio board, as well as eight non-working prototypes that we mounted to the wall to climb on and film. Moreover, we casted wristbands out of silicone.

Prototypes in action

Light experiments

Our goal was to be able to light up different parts of the hold.

Vibration sensor for wristband

We also programmed a vibration sensor for the silicone wristband prototype. We tested multiple types of vibration and tried to find the most subtle but still well-noticable one.

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