For many, climbing is a way to spend time with friends, see the outdoors and also keep fit. Climbers enjoy solving problems, exceeding their limits and reaching personal goals. To climb well requires a sophisticated vocabulary of movement, coupled with physical strength, fitness and psychological composure; it truly is a whole body workout.
Improvement in climbing is achieved through directed training and practice. Unfortunately for many, progress can be slow and gains are often difficult to notice. This can result in climbers losing their motivation to continue training. For the more advanced athlete, training regimes involve strict cycles of power, endurance and rest, all of which can be hard to keep track of. As we are climbers ourselves, we have experienced these issues first hand, which is why we developed Climbax.
Climbax is an automated training aid for climbers. It uses two lightweight bands containing movement sensors that are worn on the wrists that collect data about your climbing. Our validated algorithms detect climbing and individual moves and track all sorts of other stats about your performance.
After your training session you simply upload the data from the bands to our website, which automatically produces a report for you that you can view on your profile. A demo of the what the interface looks like at the moment is available here.
Climbax also calculates a range of other measures of your climbing performance. Our scientifically validated algorithms can track your performance from session to session, and give you an idea of how close to your limit you are pushing yourself.
The Climbax website produces statistics for each of your individual climbing sessions.
Here you see how your performance and training regime has changed over months or even years, you can really see improvements in your climbing. If you want to,
you can share your data with your friends or compare it with other climbers – all in an easy-to-use interface that you can access from your computer or smart
phone. We have a demo interface here, but improving this is one of the main focuses of this campaign.
The story so far
Climbax was conceived and carried out as a “guerilla project” by the founders. Initially we focussed on getting exactly the right mix of science and technology to make the results we produce bullet proof; what you see today is the result of 1000’s of hours of code writing, data capture, interviews to get the mix of "science" and "cool" exactly right.
When we presented our work to the scientific community (download here) in September in Zurich, we were overwhelmed by the amount of positive uptake. So much so, we decided the next step was to explore how to bring our prototypes to the mass market .
How we intend to bring Climbax to life
As it presently stands, we have
Production ready designs for the electronics
Soft tooled bands that we will injection mould
Negotiated and tested a sustainable supply chain
Identified and visited a suitable manufacturing facility
Validated algorithms for move detection
Validated algorithms for skill assessment
Negotiated a sustainable distribution channel
We have personally visited all the parties in our supply, manufacturing and distribution chain and have negotiated and got quotes for volume prices.
If the Kickstarter campaign is successful the next steps for the project will be:
Step 1 - Commission injection moulds with our UK based supplier. This will mean we can manufacture volumes of bands, and plastic housings, reliably and cost effectively. The duration of this phase has been negotiated at on an 6-8 week lead time.
Step 2 - Commission manufacture of the sensor hardware. We have already made a small batch of prototypes with this supplier in the design we intend to use. The supplier can produce large quantities of sensor hardware on a 4 week lead time. Each sensor is individually tested at the suppliers factory and only when it has passed an optical and electronic tests, it is given a unique serial number.
Step 3 - Get programming. While Step 1 and 2 are underway, we will have approximately 2 months to develop the Climbax user portal. We already have all the technical algorithms complete and a good idea of what the interface will look like but there is still a bit to getting the data from the devices, uploaded to the cloud and presented in a personalised portal.
Step 4 - We like to think of this step as the "Gravy". At this stage we will have shipped out the "beta testers" sensors and be working closely with them to fix bugs and add in cool features. We really want the system to be a good mix of "sports science" and "cool". To get this right we will be relying on YOUR help though online-surveys, face-face meetings, workshop days and comps. We expect this phase of development to last 4 weeks in total.
Step 5 - Release! At this point we will be shipping out bands backers have pledged for and you can tie in and try them out...
The Climbax project was founded by three members, although lots of others have helped massively along the way!
Dr Cassim Ladha (Project Lead) is an electronics engineer. Cassim has been climbing for around 15 years and enjoys adventure climbing: his climbing CV includes first DWS ascents in Majorca, numerous Alpine classics and good dose of Scottish mixed. In the lab, Cassim has a strong background in embedded electronics numerous publications in the fields of signal analysis, human movement science, activity recognition and human computer interaction. Other projects Cassim has been included in include OpenMovement (he was one of the founders). OpenMovement was the chosen accelerometer by UKBiobank to take longitudinal measurements from their 250,000 strong cohort!
Nils Hammerla (Data Scientist) is a PhD candidate in machine learning. Nils has been climbing on and off for around 6 years and mostly enjoys bouldering and sport climbing. Nils has a proven track record in novel signal analysis and has been involved with numerous high profile projects including monitoring dog movements (which his world wide press).
Tom Nappey (Industrial Designer) is a man with taste! Tom has been climbing for a little under a year but coming from an athletics background is finding his feet fast. When Tom got involved with the project, everything changed. He has taken initial crude prototypes right the way upto production ready models.
The Climbax team would also like to thank the following people and organisations:
Why we need your help
As with any technology-based consumer product, viability and
sustainability only comes if the volumes are there. We feel we have done all we
can to de-risk Climbax as a commercial venture from a technology/design
standpoint and it's now time to see if other climbers out there are as enthusiastic about it as all the ones we've talked to so far! We need to hit a
magic number of 1000 units before we get the price breaks we need.
Risks and challenges
Our sensors are based around the OpenMovement platform. This is an open source platform, initiated by members of the of the Climbax team specifically for movement science and clinical trials. The OpenMovement platform is already in use in multiple applications around the world with 4000+ units in use to date. We do not anticipate any hiccups with this aspect of the project but if they arise we are confident we can deal with them.
The algorithms used to pick out climbing motion from non-climbing motion and then perform the skill detection have been validated in a large-scale scientific study. We know they are bullet proof and have the evidence to prove it. What we don’t know is if the metrics we measure will motivate people in the way we anticipate. Circumstantial evidence is there from other projects (Strava, FitBit, Nike Fuel etc) that monitoring helps increase awareness, which in turn motivates. However, as no one has ever managed to measure climbing movement before in the way we do, we are going to have to go into the project willing to listen and learn. We have already worked very closely with coaches and pro’s to get this far. We will continue to work with them even after we launch the project.
We are a UK-based company and are committed to high standard of British design and engineering. Although we have tried to keep as much of the manufacture and assembly in the UK, we do plan to source some parts and components from China. The team behind Climbax has experience of manufacturing product lines at scale in the past. We are confident we can rely on our tested supply chain to deliver Climbax, as promised and on time.
At this stage we are confident that the electronics are bullet proof as is the manufacturing process to make them. We are also confident that the bands fit comfortably and are of the right material for the job. Of course with any design, it is not until you make the first large volume batch that you really find un-expected problems. Although we hope no design changes are needed at this stage, we are confident that should they arise we are in a position to engineer a solution that does not compromise the performance or concept behind the Climbax product.
Kickstarter is an "all or nothing" platform. Put simply, this means if the target is not reached then the project does NOT go ahead. In this scenario any backers will NOT be charged and no rewards will be given.
For this reason we are really urging anyone with a positive outlook on the project to back it rather than sit back!
Premium Pledge: This is a one off opportunity to get hold of your Climbax bands before anyone else and be part of the beta testing team. Premium pledgers will receive the option to have their bands in any of the following colours:
BLACK, RED, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE, YELLOW or, TIE DYE GREEN.