Environment-Scale Fabrication: Replicating Outdoor Climbing Experiences

Emily Whiting
Dartmouth College
Nada Ouf
University of Pennsylvania
Liane Makatura
Dartmouth College
Christos Mousas
Dartmouth College

Zhenyu Shu
Ningbo Institute of Technology
Ladislav Kavan
University of Utah

We capture the crux of an outdoor rock climbing route (left), fabricate the key holds and mount them in an indoor climbing wall (right). Our replica mimics the climbing experience of the original outdoor route.


Despite rapid advances in 3D printing, fabricating large, durable and robust artifacts is impractical with current technology. We focus on a particularly challenging environment-scale artifact: rock climbing routes. We propose a prototype fabrication method to replicate part of an outdoor climbing route and enable the same sensorimotor experience in an indoor gym. We start with 3D reconstruction of the rock wall using multi-view stereo and use reference videos of a climber in action to identify localized rock features that are necessary for ascent. We create 3D models akin to traditional indoor climbing holds, fabricated using rapid prototyping, molding and casting techniques. This results in robust holds accurately replicating the features and configuration of the original rock route. Validation was performed on two rock climbing sites in New Hampshire and Utah. We verified our results by comparing climbers moves on the indoor replicas and original outdoor routes.


Emily Whiting, Nada Ouf, Liane Makatura, Christos Mousas, Zhenyu Shu, Ladislav Kavan. Environment-Scale Fabrication: Replicating Outdoor Climbing Experiences. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2017.  

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Conference Talk


Thank you to our dedicated rock climbers: William Braasch, Wayne Norse, and Patrick Xu; the Dartmouth College Thayer Machine Shop for fabrication resources; the anonymous reviewers for their feedback; and our colleagues Kevin Chen, Elaine Cohen, Perttu Hamalainen, Jaakko Lehtinen, and Frieder Wittmann for insightful discussions. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 1464267, 1617172 and 1622360. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of Activision.