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Versa Climber Retrofit

Through an inventive, low cost solution, I was able to bring back the 30+ year old exercise device by incorporating modern technology and building a customized app.

Case Study Highlights

Versa Climber went through a modern makeover by adding interactive elements to complement the workout.

Pairing the FitTrip fitness app with the Versa Climber provided users with a more effective and motivating workout.

Upgrade kits were produced and shipped for over 1000 Versa Climber units.

Skills

  • Design

  • Mobile

  • Cloud/Web

  • Hardware Prototyping

  • Learning/Analysis

Overview

Back to the Future

Back in the 1980s, the Versa Climber was a state-of-the-art exercise machine. Being so popular and effective, it was featured in the training montage for Ivan Drago in the 1985 classic Rocky IV. Climbing a ladder provides a full body, high intensity, low impact strength-training workout. However, over the past decades, the machine remained largely unchanged from its original model, and phased out of popularity.

Planning & Consulting

The Upgrade

I was faced with a challenge: how to update existing, deployed Versa Climber units without recalling them to the factory? A simple and elegant solution was needed so that owners could retrofit upgrades themselves with minimal instructions and costs. In order to make Versa Climber attractive to a modern user, we had to bring it into the digital age, using Bluetooth and mobile app technology.

Versa Climber upgrade features diagram

Product Management

In the Workshop

Looking for the optimal solution, I started with prototyping. The goal was to find a way for the Versa Climber to communicate workout telemetry data that could be analyzed later within a mobile app. I constructed a beta model using the RFDuino board, Bluetooth module, and other components to be able to create a wireless interface. After further research and multiple tests, a third party accelerometer was used to detect elliptical path data, filtered and adjusted to increase running accuracy.

prototyping rough sketch image

Product Management

Coming into the Digital Age

Now that the hardware communication issue was solved, we needed for that data to be processed within a mobile app, engaging users in an interactive workout experience. I developed a customized, white-labeled version of the FitTrip app (read the full case study here) to interact with the Versa Climber machine. Users could virtually experience real climbs from all over the world, such as Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. Interactive video pace was adjusted according to their heart rate in order to create a more realistic training adventure.

Versa Climber app mobile screenshots

The mobile app let's users track their performance and share their scores with friends on social media.


In order to make Versa Climber attractive to a modern user, we had to bring it into the digital age, using Bluetooth and mobile app technology

Conclusion

Revitalized & Ready to Go

The retrofit was a success – upgraded kits were produced and shipped for over 1000 Versa Climber units all over the US. A similar update was executed for the Versa Pulley rowing machine units, bringing old machines out of the basement for renewed life.

Ready to take the next step?

I’m always looking to collaborate on interesting projects with amazing people. Please feel free to get in touch with me to discuss your next venture.