On this VR climbing wall you climb the moon
A rotating wall with climbing holds provides a fascinating illusion: with enough endurance you will climb almost endless lunar craters.
It’s often unusual movement concepts that create an ingenious sense of presence in virtual reality. In Jochen Schweizer’s VR Bodyflight, for example, your body is lifted into the air in a wind tunnel so that you can completely block out the reality around you.
In the VReeclimber project, you also experience your body in VR just as you do in reality: You hang from a real climbing wall whose 238 holds you can see and grasp in the virtual world.
Before you reach the end, the wall just keeps turning – and you can reach out for new holds above you. This makes almost endless climbing possible.
VReeclimber: VR Treadmill for Endless Climbing
The designers from TU Wien call the massive device a “Climbing Treadmill” – in reference to VR treadmills like KatVR. Even cliffs and overhangs are simulated. To accomplish this, the top of the wall tilts forward by up to 20 degrees.
In the climbing simulation, players can climb various, partly surreal places. In addition to a moon crater and a volcano, these include a spaceship, a jungle setting and St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. In the virtual world, the program can hide individual holds and thus lead players along changing paths.
Horst Eidenberger and his team at the Vienna University of Technology have precisely scanned the handholds and hollows in 3D, creating a digital twin of the real wall in front of you in the simulation. At the top and bottom of the wall, however, the program makes you believe that the rocks lead much further up and down.
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Since the wall only rolls slowly with each step, this movement is not even noticeable while climbing, Futurezone reports after a test play.
VR climbing with lighthouse tracking
To ensure that the game world from the Unity engine precisely matches the real-world holds, Valve’s Lighthouse system is used. Four base stations track the HTC Vive Pro 2 VR headset and eight Vive trackers.
Four of these trackers are strapped to the hands and feet to capture their position and orientation – so similar to the Miniature Wonderland VR experience. The remaining trackers are mounted on the climbing wall.
Despite its size (4 x 4.6 x 4 meters) and 700 kilogram weight, VReeclimber is advertised as transportable. According to the maunfacturer, it takes just three hours for two people to set up the wall made of wood, steel and some motors in a new location. Interested parties can book the climbing wall on the official website.