A.B.C.: augmented beta climbing

Looking forward to olympic game in Tokyo 2020 and noticing than many indoor climbing gyms have more and more new clients from all ages, some just starting this sport to have fun, we focused on a project able to satisfy as many people as it was possible.

A.B.C is an interactive climbing hold that recognizes the user and helps him/her training in the most useful way according to his/her skills level. The system will improve training using a mixed reality app, in order to stay safe while enjoying a different kind of training.

We collected qualitative and quantitative data via surveys, inteviews, observation, shadowing and on field training. We then tried to convey both climbers and gym owners needs. The first wanted and needed more hints when got stucked, while the second wished a way to change the paths in an easier and faster way than doing it manually hold by hold.

Scroll down to discover the full process.

Developed: Mar 2018/Jun 2018

Team work with: Francesca Abbatantuono, Alice De Nardi and Jesus Marini Parissi

Main contribution: concept, research, analysis, technical detail, virtual environment

Exhibited at Design X Designers in Politecnico di Milano (2019)


According to Wikipedia, proprioception is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense".

That's what is the the hardest part: how to move your body and how to grab. For this reason a mix of analog and digital suggestions are shown along the path. For beginners is also suggested to have a medium/pro climber to learn how to better move your body while climbing.

hand position
hand position
foot position
foot position

We asked climbers what is the best training to learn to climb properly. All of them agreed that you learn climbing by climbing. This became our focus point that guided us through the entire project.

Data sum up

We made a survey and asked on several Facebook groups, online forum, local gyms to fill it and to spread it. We received more than 500 answers from all around the world in one week. We asked general information, going in deep according to the climber's level. From what tool do you use to train, to how do you feel before, during and after having climbed.

We went on with interviews to pro and beginner climbers to better understand and observe them practicing this sport.

Also the gym owners points of view gave us some interesting clues to have a better vision of the whole activity.

Of course, we tryed it by ourself, to have the designer's point of view.

Here a sum up of what we discovered.

data 1
gym owner
data 2


Focusing on indoor climbing, develop an interactive system in order to improve an intermediate climber body position and grabbing of the hand by a customizable path trought physical holds and augmented experience.

data 3

Concept architecture

We tried to solve the highlighted problems dividing the product in two parts. The hardware part would have focused on the physical problems, such as the need for multiple and dynamic paths. The software part, instead, focused more on the metal issues. The system will be able to recognize the user and his/her level. According to these informations, hints can be shown via the light of the holds or thanks to an AR visor.

system architecture
interaction matrix

Existing infrastructure

We went to indoor climbing gyms not only to try ourself the sport and collect data from the climbers. We wanted to design a product feasible and able to change how people climb without disrupting the existing industrial production methods. The holds are made in polymer casting, while the wall is a modular MDF wood panel.

existing wall panel


What we designed is module-based system. First, we wanted a path changing tool. To achieve this, we designed a series of holds that could contain different sub-holds. To show the path, the sub-hold highlights. Thanks to the RGB LEDs, the climber can choose to train on a specific dificulty path or on a specific type of holds, such as plug, jugs, pinches and crimps.

designed holds

Inside, the hold has different parts. From RGB LEDs, to capacitive sensors used to detect whether the climber did well or used a different sub-hold. Furthermore, thanks to capacitive sensor we can assume how the climber body is positioned while climbing. The connection between the wall and the hold has been redesigned with a specific connector to allow 360 degrees rotation and data transfer at the same time. This to allow the gym owner to install the holds however he wants. The NFC is needed to know which hold is attached to the wall hole, and then its coordinates.

hold sections
hold exploded

The hold is connected to the wall panel through a T-nut and a screw as normal holds are. The 360° ring contact, attached to the wall, enable the the voltage and data connection from wall to hold. In addition, its 360° design allow the gym owner to install the hold in any rotation, and this will be sent to the dedicated climbing app. The NFC is needed to recognize where each hold is installed. Hereafter a detailed scheme of the wall to wall connections.

wall connection
wall to wall connection

The A.B.C. dedicated app uses climber's data, such as experience level and height, to suggest the best level for the climbing path. It also shows stats and error of the latest climbings.

ABC app

An AR version could be used to give the climber an outdoor simulation or some hints while climbing with a companion, instead of using LEDs blinking. We decided to use AR instead of VR for safety reasons.

ar version and companion




Here you can find some more prototype videos about how it works.

While here there is how the whole experience should look like, developed in Unity (Windows only).



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