Virtual rock climbing: A safe way to work on your fear of heights
One of the more fun exhibits at this year's fairly dry Digility AR/VR expo in Cologne, Germany, was this VR rock climbing wall game, which lets you climb around in a range of weird virtual and photo-realistic environments to help you safely conquer your fear of heights.
The result of a collaboration between Hochschule Dusseldorf's University of Applied Sciences and InnovationsHub, the climbing wall uses two HTC Vive cameras and requires climbers to strap up with a harness, a pair of special gloves (which are in prototype form at this stage, allowing the team to track the curl of your fingers), plus a headset and sensors on the backs of your hands, feet and butt.
The climbing holds are rendered realistically, and you can see your hands and feet so that you can grab the holds and climb around in a complete VR environment. Thus, you can climb around in a complete fantasy land or something more realistic, a totally safe way to work out your fear of heights. There's a couple of added challenges as well, where you need to turn around and hit virtual buttons that are floating in the sky.
In an effort to make the experience interesting for those who are watching (not an easy task with most VR games), there's a secondary screen and XBox controller that lets spectators fly a drone around in 3D space to choose their own camera angle on the climber.
The team tells us they're hoping to develop the system to work with climbing treadmills, so climbers can get up a lot higher than they can on a static wall like the one being used today. That's when the sense of height will really come in handy, but such a system won't come cheap, so it's likely only to show up in swanky climbing gyms that have got a bit of cash to splash to present something out of the ordinary.