Virtual reality game tests rock climbers' brawn and brains

Lauren Glassberg Image
Friday, March 11, 2016
Virtual reality game tests rock climbers' brawn and brains
Lauren Glassberg has the details.

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (WABC) -- Jon Cheng says he really enjoys the cerebral aspect of climbing and that's why he developed a virtual reality game that's played on a rock climbing wall.

Cheng approaches each climb first with his brain then with his body.

"You're sort of trying to solve this puzzle in your head about how to move your body in 3D space," Cheng said.

But getting to the top wasn't enough for this Harvard graduate - so he created a game.

"I tend to be a little bit of a competitive person so you know I was like maybe we can do something more of a race and I thought that would be a lot of fun," Cheng said.

The game is a race against the clock. A projector displays targets onto the climbing wall and the goal is to hit them as quickly as possible.

"It actually gave me such an adrenaline rush," climber Cheryl Chan said. "I felt like I had to get it done fast and suddenly just grabbing a rock and doing it right away was awesome."

The technology augments the climbing experience into something totally different for climbers.

"I'm a fan of stepping back, kind of like, planning out your route, but this like you're timed; you've got to hit those dots. It's just split second and it was really cool to have that aspect to it," said Sean Levin, a climber.

Brooklyn Boulders periodically offer the Randori time trials to climbers at all of its locations including its newest location in Long Island City.

"Everyone's wanted to live inside of a video game before if they've played Nintendo so it's right in line with our audience," said Lance Pinn, of the Brooklyn Boulders.

Because the game can be adjusted from easy to difficult even novices get into it.

"It appeals to a lot of advanced climbers because they like competing with each other, but we've also had a lot of success with kids programs. We have a lot of kids who are really excited about it and they're just like 'oh that's really, really cool can I play that,'" Cheng said.

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