High-tech gladiator fights approach reality as Unified Weapons Master hits Indiegogo

Remember that crazy Australian startup that wants to resurrect gladiator fights by equipping martial artists with high-tech body armor? We came across the group, dubbed Unified Weapons Master, a little over a year ago, and back then their suits were just barely past the prototype stage. Today, however, the company has taken a big step toward making its dream a reality, and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to jumpstart mass production and finally bring its new full-contact, weapons-based combat sport to the world.

If you haven’t already heard of UWM, allow us to fill you in. Basically, the company’s founders are on a mission to bring back weapons-based fighting, and have spent the last few years developing a way for weapons-based martial artists to fight in a way that allows the loser to do so more than once — that is, without eviscerating each other in the process. To make this possible, UWM has designed a special suit called the Lorica — a full body suit of armor that protects the wearer from weapon blows.

But protection is just one part of the equation. Underneath all the carbon fiber and impact-resistant foam it’s made from, the Lorica is outfitted with an array of sensors — all of which are designed to detect when a given part of the armor is struck. The suit uses a combination of piezoelectric shock/vibration sensors and accelerometers to measure not only where a fighter lands a hit on his opponent, but also the approximate severity of the blow. All of this data is collected by the suit in real time during a fight and beamed wirelessly to a special ringside computer system that keeps score.

Back when we first spoke to UWM founders David Pysden and Justin Forsell, the scoring system hadn’t been fully developed yet — but now, just over a year later, it appears that they’ve ironed out all the kinks. The company’s custom-built software draws on medical research to calculate the damage that would’ve been inflicted on an unprotected body, so every time a fighter is dealt a blow, his or her health bar will drop by an amount that corresponds to the severity and location of the hit.

As you can see in the videos above, this scoring system makes UWM fights look something like a slightly more realistic version of Mortal Kombat. Hits on the limbs and torso inflict a small amount of damage, whereas a well-placed blow to the head, chest, or throat will register as a kill shot and instantly drain a fighter’s health bar.

Sounds pretty damn entertaining, right? Well, if all goes according to plan, UWM hopes to hold its first live combat event in 2016, but there’s still plenty of work to be done before that can happen. That’s where the Indiegogo campaign comes in. All funds raised through the campaign will go toward finalizing the suit design, scoring system, and fighting arena.

The campaign has some interesting backer rewards, too. A pledge of $100 will get you a ticket to the first official bout in Australia, while a $170 donation buys you a pair of tickets to the first American fight. For a couple hundred more, you can snag yourself one of the hardened thermoplastic “trainer” weapons that the fighters use. And if you’re really feeling generous, a pledge of $1,000,000 will get you your very own Lorica suit.

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