San Francisco startup to launch The Whipper, an activity tracker for climbers

By Jonah Comstock
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A new activity tracker company is about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, and this one is aimed at a very particular kind of athlete: rock climbers. The Whipper, from Portola, San Francisco-based Mbientlab, is a small clip-on device that tracks climber-specific metrics like pace, form, number of climbs, and vertical feet, as well as calculating caloric expenditure.

In addition, the device will connect to an app with coaching features that recommend training programs, analyze users' progress, and recommend goals to set. The team is also incorporating social tools, recognizing that climbers need partners to belay and to travel together to climbing sites.

The wearable is set to be available for preorder on Indiegogo on May 3rd and commercially available in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The Whipper seems to be something of a side project for Mbientlab, which makes the MetaWear SDK, a development kit designed to help engineers create smart, connected devices, including wearables. MetaWare has readymade software for heart rate sensors, accelerometers, galvanic skin response sensors, pressure and temperature sensors, and more.

The Whipper is not the first wearable for climbers to try its luck on a crowdfunding platform. Climbax, a wrist-worn tracker, launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 but was only able to raise about 10 percent of its funding goal

The British company was aiming to sell their device for a bit more than Whipper -- 120 pounds, or about $175.

"In terms of the project, we are still very keen to take the project forwards and are searching funding to do so," Climbax wrote on its website. "The massive support we received with, in hindsight, perhaps naive marketing, just shows there IS definitely a market for this sort of product."