Sports

Unified Weapons Master: Bloodless, high tech, full contact weapons fighting to debut in 2016

Ultimate Weapons Master, or UWM, allows full contact weapons fighting to the virtual death, using high-tech armor that registers strike damage and gives the fighters a real-time health bar
Ultimate Weapons Master, or UWM, allows full contact weapons fighting to the virtual death, using high-tech armor that registers strike damage and gives the fighters a real-time health bar
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
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UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
Unified Weapons Master: armor suits communicate in real time with scoring software to determine location and force of each strike. Health bar damage is calculated using medical blunt force trauma data.
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Unified Weapons Master: armor suits communicate in real time with scoring software to determine location and force of each strike. Health bar damage is calculated using medical blunt force trauma data.
UWM fighter in prototype armor without helmet
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UWM fighter in prototype armor without helmet
Putting on the prototype armour is currently a 20-minute job. Production versions will be much faster - but you'll probably still need a dresser to help you.
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Putting on the prototype armour is currently a 20-minute job. Production versions will be much faster - but you'll probably still need a dresser to help you.
UWM: staff vs. bokken
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UWM: staff vs. bokken
UWM: staff vs. bokken with sneaky dagger
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UWM: staff vs. bokken with sneaky dagger
UWM: long sword
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UWM: long sword
UWM: long sword
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UWM: long sword
UWM: staff vs. long sword
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UWM: staff vs. long sword
UWM: staff
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UWM: staff
UWM: team assists fighter to put his helmet on
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UWM: team assists fighter to put his helmet on
UWM: protective gauntlets
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UWM: protective gauntlets
UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
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UWM: gladius and shield vs. double axes
UWM: staff vs. double axes
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UWM: staff vs. double axes
UWM: staff vs. double axes
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UWM: staff vs. double axes
UWM: double axes
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UWM: double axes
UWM: double axes
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UWM: double axes
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM: bokken vs. bokken
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken
UWM founder gets into his armor
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UWM founder gets into his armor
UWM prototype armoured helmet
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UWM prototype armoured helmet
UWM fighter: ready to rumble
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UWM fighter: ready to rumble
UWM: bokken vs. bokken ... but punches and kicks cause damage as well
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UWM: bokken vs. bokken ... but punches and kicks cause damage as well
UWM fighter is assisted getting into armour
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UWM fighter is assisted getting into armour
UWM fighters: ready to rumble
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UWM fighters: ready to rumble
UWM co-founder David Pysden spoke to Gizmag in Sydney, Australia
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UWM co-founder David Pysden spoke to Gizmag in Sydney, Australia
Ultimate Weapons Master, or UWM, allows full contact weapons fighting to the virtual death, using high-tech armor that registers strike damage and gives the fighters a real-time health bar
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Ultimate Weapons Master, or UWM, allows full contact weapons fighting to the virtual death, using high-tech armor that registers strike damage and gives the fighters a real-time health bar

Two expert martial artists, clad head to toe in high-tech articulated armor, going at each other full force with ancient and modern weapons. Staff against nunchuk, Kendo against Kali – the flag drops, the bullshit stops. An all-out, to-the-virtual-death contest to decide who is the greatest weapons martial artist in the world, and which fighting styles are more flash and form than function. That's the concept behind Unified Weapons Master, a futuristic new gladiator sport being developed out of Sydney, Australia. It's the first fighting sport that will be able to give its fighters a virtual health bar to show how much damage they'd be taking if they weren't in armor.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport on the planet – and the UFC, by some estimates, may be the world's most valuable sports organization. This is a wonderful time to be involved in martial arts.

Unless, that is, you're involved in weapons-based martial arts. While MMA fighting pits experts of all different fighting styles against one another in full-contact competition, it's much harder to do when there's weapons involved.

The first and main issue is safety. A well-placed fist or knee might be a devastating and dangerous weapon, but weapons are far more lethal. If you want to go full contact with weapons, you've got to wear armor ... and it had better be good armor.

But when you do, you run into the second issue – if both fighters are wearing armor, how can you tell who really won? One of the main ideas behind MMA was to answer the question: if you really want to win a fight, which martial art is the most effective? The answer, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, emerged pretty quickly, and the vast majority of MMA fighters now include BJJ in their training. But how do you work out which is the most effective weapons-based fighting style without actually letting people kill each other?

UWM: bokken vs. bokken ... but punches and kicks cause damage as well
UWM: bokken vs. bokken ... but punches and kicks cause damage as well

One Sydney-based startup believes it has the answer. Unified Weapons Master, or UWM, is a full-contact weapons-based fighting competition that uses extremely high-tech suits of armor to protect the combatants while providing real-time updates on how badly they'd be getting mangled if they were fighting unprotected.

Essentially, it's live weapons fighting with a video-game health bar to keep score – and the folks behind UWM believe they've got the next great global entertainment enterprise on their hands once they get this modern gladiator sport ready for the arena and pay-per-view circuit.

David Pysden, CEO of Chiron Global, believes the sport will instantly resonate with a television audience: "People will intuitively understand the way this stuff is displayed," he tells us, "because they've seen it before in Tekken, or Mortal Kombat or any number of video games."

UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype
UWM's imposing intelligent armor prototype

The UWM intelligent armor

The prototype suits pictured here are made from a variety of materials: composites, polycarbonates, carbon fiber and elastomeric foams. They take a long time to put on – in fact, you need somebody to dress you as you put it on piece by piece. The prototypes are incredibly heavy, and it must be hard trying to fight in a 25 kg (55 lb) suit. "The primary design criteria was safety," says Pysden, "so we overengineered them quite deliberately. They were heavier than they needed to be, but we needed to make sure the people in them weren't hurt - or this business would stop very quickly."

The next-generation suits will weigh about a third less, they'll articulate better, be quicker to get in and out of, and will feature a compressed air cooling system to keep the fighters from overheating. They'll also be packed with in-built cameras and microphones to transmit the fighting experience from the fighters' points of view – something that's obviously been impossible in MMA previously.

UWM: team assists fighter to put his helmet on
UWM: team assists fighter to put his helmet on

The fight scoring system relies on dozens of sensors embedded in the armor that are capable of measuring the force, angle and location of a strike. The strike data is measured against carefully complied medical blunt trauma data to determine what kind of damage each blow would do to an unprotected body. "We know, for example," Pysden tells us, "how much force it takes to shatter the jaw, or knock somebody out, or to break an arm or to crack a skull. We're starting with blunt force trauma simulation, and we already have the medical data for that. We'll know who killed who, or who incapacitated who first."

It's important to note the suits won't just use weapon strikes to determine damage – this will be a true free-for-all. Kicks, punches, knees or repeatedly whacking your opponent's head on the ground will all contribute damage, although perhaps not quite as much as donging them on the head with a dirty big stick.

Psyden says the UWM team are hoping to expand the system to be able to cope with bladed weapons like swords and spears in the next few years. "Edged weapons will be a little trickier, we're looking at a couple of years before we can incorporate blades and the like, because funnily enough nobody's done a lot of experimentation in that area." Part of the challenge will be to incorporate internal organ and vein/artery damage that's inherent to a blade strike, so that'll be interesting!

UWM fighter: ready to rumble
UWM fighter: ready to rumble

UWM competition slated to begin in 2016

With testing and suit development progressing well, Pysden says the first step towards making UWM a global sport will be a series of invitation-only "underground" events to be held in Australia in 2016: "We're doing a lot of stuff that's never been done before, so obviously timelines can move around a bit. But we certainly hope to have our first public facing events in 2016." While it may start small, there is serious levels of investment behind it and the team is very much focused on creating a global entertainment package to rival the UFC.

As such, he tells us to expect the production suits to be tailored to each individual fighter - and if the fighter chooses, they can have them designed to mimic the traditional dress associated with their primary fighting style. With each suit expected to be "lots of zeros" expensive, finding the right mix of fighters to start the competition off will be a critical choice. "Later this year, we'll be starting our Call to Arms: In Search of Warriors campaign. We'll be getting people to submit videos… The public will vote on them, and a panel of experts will vote on them, and from those we'll select a number of fighters to go into our first competition next year.

UWM fighters: ready to rumble
UWM fighters: ready to rumble

"We've had phenomenal feedback from martial artists all around the world. Overwhelmingly the response has been 'when can I get a suit? When can I compete?' They're absolutely gagging to get it on, and that's understandable because they've never really been able to do that before."

One key thing Pysden wants to stress is that while UWM aims to be a highly entertaining and engaging broadcast sport, nobody in the team wants to see it descend into farce. "We really wanna honor the traditional forms, the histories, the cultures where these arts have evolved from. There's a lot of respect in how we do that – we don't want to trivialize these arts. There's been a lot of feedback on Facebook saying 'put two celebrities in the armor and let them smash each other…' Ugh. We developed this technology for weapons based experts. This technology is bleeding edge, it's very expensive and we've developed it with the purpose of showcasing these arts and bringing them to a wider audience, and obviously to find out truly who is the best weapons martial artist in the world."

UWM co-founder David Pysden spoke to Gizmag in Sydney, Australia
UWM co-founder David Pysden spoke to Gizmag in Sydney, Australia

The next step: looking beyond the first UWM season

With its blend of high-tech armor and old-school, to-the-virtual-death weapons fighting, UWM should make a fine spectator sport in and of itself. But Pysden and the team are already looking forward, envisioning what the next evolution of the sport might bring.

For starters, a better way to use the massive stream of information coming from the suits: "We're already working on a second screen experience. With the number of sensors on these suits, it's just way too much information for anyone to take in through a traditional TV format. It'd be fun to give people the opportunity to interact with that data through a second screen, whether it's a tablet or a PC or a phone."

And then there's the idea of motion tracking the fighters to be able to present instant replays using character models without armor on. "Mo-Cap has actually evolved to the point where I can take a standard video image of you and produce a 3D image of you in real time, and make that look like anything I want. I can have you in flowing Samurai robes, or Jedi robes, and it'll follow you and your weapons' movements. We see that as an evolution of what we can do with the entertainment side of things. In the short term, we've actually been told by people at large sports broadcasting companies that we don't need that. They just wanna see it as a sport."

UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi
UWM: gladius and shield vs. krabi

It certainly seems like it'll make good watching – there's very few opportunities in modern life to watch one guy wrap a long, wooden staff around another guy's head using every ounce of his strength and technique. And while the guy wearing the suit seems unfazed by the impact, it still makes you wince to watch it happen. Despite its bloodless nature, this will still be a brutal sport to watch.

The first few bits of video UWM has released feel a lot like watching medieval combat – the suits are clearly very heavy and at least a little bit restrictive to the fighters. But once the armor improves and the first generation of UWM fighters gets used to training and fighting in it, they can start going at each other with the intent to do some real damage. It should make for some truly compelling viewing.

More information: Unified Weapons Master

12 comments
Derek Howe
hmmmm, I enjoy watching the occasional UFC PPV fight, so I would give this a go. They are going to need to make those suits much lighter though, 25kg, that's 55 pounds! It's going to be hard to be quick & nimble while wearing that! Good luck to em', but they will never be as big as UFC, I think people just prefer watching people fight using the tools they were born with.
Threesixty
This will be serious fun. Even more fun if a spectator can see a wounded combatant struggling on! I am sure it's possible to simulate wounds by including forced reactions to damage in the armour. For example, if a combatant receives a killing blow, the whole suit of armour instantly locks up; or if an arm is cut off, the said arm of the armour locks up. Minor damage could cause a 'treacle effect', a forced slowing down of the appropriate appendage or organ. Blindness, loss of blood, loss of balance either temporary or permanent, could all be forced as a reaction in the suit.
doitallthetime
I'm in !! only if my suit give me ,eye pokes ,kidney punches ,nut knockers ,taser zaps .... to spur me on and show point scores. and a suit of VR censors that i could fight on line with. till that happens I'll watch this "OMG" sport take off faster than ...??
flink
I want to know where the hell this stuff was at when _I_ was learning Arnis (i.e., being pounded to a pulp with the sticks).
CrabbyOldGuy
Well, damn..at my age this leaves me out...I remember some of the crazier members of Society of Creative Anachronism kicking an idea very much like this back in the late '70s-early '80s. Sounds like great fun.....EN GARDE !!
the.other.will
The text suggests that the working versions of the suits will weigh about 37 lb. A realistic simulation - and that may not ever be their goal - would be to estimate the effects of different weapons on people wearing different sorts of armor that weigh at least 37 lb.
Bob Flint
Isn't this already a farce packaged preservation when the idea is to kill.
Ugly
From what I can gather, these suits are designed to simulate the lethality or not of each strike in unarmoured combat rather than armoured. Only mass weapons have any chance of penetrating armour enough to injure someone, and even thats not very likely unless you use something like a pick... The suits' weight may take away from this effort but I applaud the idea nonetheless. I currently compete in full contact medieval armoured combat on the international stage and our armour is between 30-40kg depending on how much protection you want (the Russians wear less but they are crazy). Its all custom made and tops out at about $3k for everything but has no electronics to measure stuff - we fight to last team standing 5v5 mostly. NOT SCA, reenactment or role playing. Think of it as Team MMA crossed with rugby using steel weapons and no ball.
lwesson
I used to fence, with my favorite sword, The Saber. Too cool, well, not so cool temp wise. Air conditioning is a must. We were drenched after some minutes of aggressive fencing. Oh, and it was far from being bloodless! Saber could, depending on how novice your opponent was, not forgiving. Epee was the most painful by far. Quarter sized bruises were common. It did teach you one thing, move fast, out of the way! Painless fencing? Something will be out of the equation per teaching!
Stephen N Russell
franchise this worldwide. Awesome Next stage Robotics for more severe combat