Rebecca Rhee




Shifting Planes: Envisioning the approach to rock climbing and dynamic movement in Mixed Reality


Mixed reality is where the physical world can intervene and interact within the virtual world. It is an emergent medium used for simulation and training where the physical world is used to enhance a virtual environment.

This thesis envisions how rock climbing could utilize the combination of virtual reality and the tactility of physical climbing by providing an experience that attempts to mimics the reality of outdoor climbing. Its intent is for use as a training mechanism that gives climbers a convenient way to train for real-world climbing routes.


Rebecca Rhee is a multidisciplinary designer based in Seattle, Washington, with a background in visual communications. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to her studies at the University of Washington, Rebecca worked in publication and marketing, designing art books, magazines and campaigns. During her graduate studies, she worked as a teaching assistant for the School of Art + Art History + Design while pursuing her interests in XR (Extended Reality) design. For her thesis, Rebecca has focused on the intersection of virtual reality design and rock climbing, allowing her to delve deeper into both of her passions. 


  • Axel Roesler, Chair
  • Jason O. Germany
  • Jenny Kam


  • MDes, University of Washington, 2022
  • BFA, Visual Communications, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012

Excerpt from commentary by Heidi Biggs

Rebecca Rhee’s research reaches. Literally and figuratively. Rhee’s thesis translates rock climbing into a virtual reality experience. However, her VR climbing concept moves beyond a game or a mostly visual rendering — she designed a concept where designers can climb in VR using full-body movements and body weight. In her design, a climber moves up a shifting wall that can mimic and help them train for or test out difficult remote climbs. Mental visualization has long been a part of high-level athletic training, and this project was inspired by how elite climbers train for difficult and remote routes by watching videos or looking at images of the climb while miming the movements and imagining climbing the route. Rhee thought, what if you could move through the route in a more full-bodied way in a virtual environment? 

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