Picture of Laser-guided Ghost Climber
Ghost Climber 1 Mini.jpg
Ghost Climber 3 Mini.jpg
As a rock climber who frequently hangs around a popular indoor climbing wall, I spend a lot of time watching other people climbing tricky routes and wondering, "Could I do that in the same way?"

Almost inevitably, when I try to climb the same route I'll forget exactly what sequence of holds they used and end up following a slightly different path. Even when I remember exactly which course to follow, I'll still wonder whether I'm doing it as quickly as the previous climber. Yes, I know that skill in climbing isn't all about speed, but I'm competitive like that.

That's how I decided to make a device that could record the precise route a climber follows when climbing a wall or a rock face, then play it back in such a way that another climber could follow it while climbing and, if they felt so inclined, race against it. This concept will no doubt be familiar to anyone else who grew up playing Mario Kart's time trial mode: it is a ghost.

In an ideal world, a ghost climber would be a 3D holographic recording of a climber that would then eerily haunt the rock face, replaying the climber's exact body motions and speed of progress. In our less-than-ideal world, a ghost climber can be created by accurately tracing and replaying a specific climbing route using a servomotor-controlled laser turret. That's right: in this situation a motorised laser turret is the simple solution.

Here's the finished device in action:

And here's what it looks like while it's working its magic:

My ghost climber device, nicknamed The Redpointer*, can be used in the following situations:
  • In training, for a single climber to try to beat his/her own personal best and view where on the route he/she was fastest and slowest.
  • In competitions, so that multiple climbers can race consecutively on the same route. This is considerably easier to arrange than creating two identical climbing routes side-by-side. It also has the advantage that it is portable enough to be set up outdoors on rock faces that cannot be duplicated.
  • In social climbing, to illustrate a long or complex route to a second climber without requiring the second climber to memorise it before climbing.
  • Any other scenario in which you wish to record and replay a path to be followed by a laser pointer. I'm not suggesting setting up illegal underground cat-racing circuits, but I can't promise that someone else won't try it...

*This is climbing humour. I'm very sorry.
Jeevesh4 years ago
NO Hard feelings but i just wanted to ask will the codes actually work.
sometimes it shows error .But Idea is brilliant
PenfoldPlant (author)  Jeevesh4 years ago
Really? It works fine on my device. What error message are you getting? Are you sure you've included the pitches.h file in an accessible place?
I just wanted to know can these files be directly burned into the chip or they need some type of work to be done(conversion to some other format)
TheHawkeye4 years ago
This is a great idea! It would be even cooler if you could implement subject image tracking.
canida4 years ago
This is awesome! Brilliant idea, great job.
PenfoldPlant (author)  canida4 years ago
Thanks a lot!
I've just been browsing through your Instructable project history and now I'm absolutely starving...
kennyhaa4 years ago
It would be super awesome to have an augmented reality heads-up-display (HUD) that allows you to "see" a recorded model of a previous climber as you climb. It could be useful as a competitive trials tool or a training aid as you would be able to see body positioning as well as the hand holds used. I suppose you could use 2 kinects to get the 3D data, one mounted at the top of the route or on the ceiling and another at the base. Not sure how you'd handle the HUD though, I suppose it would have to be something similar to virtual reality goggles.
PenfoldPlant (author)  kennyhaa4 years ago
Erm, yes. Definitely a cool concept, but currently slightly beyond the scope of my experience. I'll be sure to mention it to DARPA next time we're chatting ;-)
I think you should combine your instructable with this one. http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Laser-Show-with-Full-XY-Control/
keep your base & manual tracking laser, but for the output laser use the arduino controlled laser instead of the servo controlled laser. The reason for this is that it would be capable of drawing the line the entire section of the track so fast that it would blur into one continues line. Rather then following a dot, you would have the whole track layed out for you in one glorious laser line. It would be tricky for sure, but I think you could do it. :D
PenfoldPlant (author)  iminthebathroom4 years ago
My first thought was, "Hmmmm."
My second thought, very soon after the first, was, "Oooooooooooooh..."

I like this idea a lot. Maybe I wouldn't have it replace the main current servo turret (as that would still let you see where your ghost is), but it would certainly be cool to have it simultaneously plotting a curved path on the wall.

Thanks for the idea!
Interesting idea!
Another suggestion:
Try to add a "auto-follow", so that no one has to track the route. You could e.g. work with a pulsed IR-beam (like remote control) and serveral sensors in different directions.
PenfoldPlant (author)  FetterChiller4 years ago
Thanks, I'm currently looking into various methods of motion tracking for the next version.
mtxe4 years ago
As an Arduino fan, I think this is awesome.

As a climber I don't get the point.
PenfoldPlant (author)  mtxe4 years ago
The main point is to allow you to race against your personal best (or someone else's best) time for a specific route, while receiving feedback the whole time. Sure, you could just race against a stopwatch but it wouldn't let you know whether you were behind or ahead until you had finished. This way just provides a bit more frisson for the climber and the audience.

It can also be used to map out a route on an unmarked wall or rock face where there could be multiple possible approaches.
Ok, I get the race aspect.(I feel like the 2nd point wasn't quite actualized:)
mtxe mtxe4 years ago
BTW the emoticon was a typo.
13blue4 years ago
I don't climb or have any interest in building anything that needs a LASER. But, this is super cool and I applaud your efforts and imagination. Well Done!
PenfoldPlant (author)  13blue4 years ago
I must also add that it is great that you used materials that are easy to find and work with. How many prototypes did you make in building this device? How long did it take from start to finish to design and debug this?
Way to go ! I enjoy it when a unique Ible like this is presented in the way you did it. There is mechanical , electronics , coding and a well layed out tutorial.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Build_it_Bob4 years ago
Thanks for the positive comments, Bob. This is just the first iteration of The Redpointer, but I think it turned out pretty well. From start to finish I'm not quite sure how long it took to build and program. Now that I know what I'm doing, I think it would probably be possible to build it from scratch again in less than a day if I really put my mind to it.

Feel free to contact me about any questions you might have with the code. Cheers!
pantalone4 years ago
This is a beautiful device. I love how you built all of the mechanics out of wood.
PenfoldPlant (author)  pantalone4 years ago
Thanks, pantalone. That was just what I happened to have sitting around!
Animador3d4 years ago
What a great a idea! I love how you use ordinary materials.
I don´t know how viable it is, but I was thinking that if you manage to move the laser light fast enough you may be following a line rather than a dot. Maybe moving a small mirror instead of the laser itself.
Also I don´t know about the "annoying " factor of such line.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Animador3d4 years ago
Interesting idea. I like the concept of plotting out a path to follow as a continuous curve. I think I'll add a playback mode that displays route as a blinking dot moving up the wall at a much higher speed. Thanks for the inspiration!
Amazing code ! I will spend some time trying to understand it . VERY nice work!
There is a lot of learning for a Jr ( wanna be coder ) like me in what you have written. Commenting is great as well.
Many thanks !
greggspen4 years ago
I like the concept. The possibility of videoing the first climber then playing back through a video projector on to the wall could give you a Mario Karts type experience. But i suspect your idea is simpler and cheaper. Full marks on this.
I was thinking of using a Kinect to record the semi 3-d climber and then have 2 or more projectors to use on a single wall. Granted it would only work on 1 wall, but for a competition you'd just need it on that one for speed.
PenfoldPlant (author)  greggspen4 years ago
Thanks, greggspen, and thanks for the patch too!

I considered the video projector idea too, but I think it would be a nightmare to set up on a large climbing wall or one that isn't perfectly straight. A lot of climbing walls have very complex surfaces with overhangs and wobbly-looking bits that would require constant adjustment and refocusing of the camera/projector. Not to say it's impossible, of course, just a bit trickier... :-D

I think we'd be talking about a considerably beefier and less portable bit of kit. One day, though. One day.
Biggsy4 years ago
This is a BRILLIANT idea, welldone matey :D
PenfoldPlant (author)  Biggsy4 years ago
Thanks - glad you like it :-)