Climbing walls have come a long way since phys ed lecturer Don Robinson glued real rocks to a hallway wall at Leeds University in 1964. Just down the street from my office, walls made of plywood reinforced with steel frames sport dozens of different types of holds and graded "problems" -- perfect for staying in shape during the rainy winter months in Portland.
But not everyone lives within walking distance of an indoor climbing hub, so Munich-based design studio Lunar Europe thought up a pretty sleek art piece that doubles as a climbing wall and syncs up with an iPhone app.
Instead of the traditional wall with bulging holds, the Nova inverts the approach using cutout patterns for the climber's hands and feet to hook into. What's more, these patterned holes are filled with sensors that record and analyze climbing sessions. The user can select routes by difficulty, follow the lighted pathway, and even race the clock.
Unfortunately, what is great in theory is not always so in real life. Lunar Europe hasn't yet released any pricing info, but one can only imagine what such a wall would cost if it ever came to market. And even if it were miraculously affordable, most of us climbers don't live in the kind of home that could house this thing.
And then there's the issue of aesthetics. A whole heap of climbers are proud to sport tattoos, rolled-up pants, and a whiff of BO, and leave a climbing session with chalk markings all over their clothes and face. The Nova looks more like a modern art installation you wouldn't dare chalk up, and symbolizes nothing about the great outdoors.
Still, the concept is cool. If I ever saw one of these at a house party, you'd better believe I'd be the first to roll up my pants, sync up my phone, and climb on.