The Tech Inside Olympic Fencers' Amazing Future-Warrior LED Helmets

Continuing in its tradition of offering up exactly what we want,'s Big Picture blog has a ton of fantastic shots from the fencing action this week in Beijing, with the duelers' silvery lamé space suits and crazy blinking helmets on full display. I want one to wear, whether I'm making toast (flying crumb protection) or sequencing dance beats in a giant pyramid (extra rock action). But why all the fancy lights?

Basically, the future helmets only get busted out during big time Olympic competitions for, unsurprisingly, the aesthetics. They simply display the exact same signal that's been showing up on the scorer's desk for decades using the same type of electrical system, says Giz fan Michael from fencing supply kings A simple open-closed circuit detects a charge from the weapon, and sends a signal to the scorekeeper indicating a hit. The systems for the individual swords (foil, epee, saber, etc) vary slightly in terms of which body parts count, and what constitutes a "hit," but all use the same basic setup. The LEDs on the mask help the referee make quicker scoring calls and allow the duelers to know when a hit has been made instantly. Sort of a shame that they're aren't actually T1000-style heads-up displays or something, but hey, they get an important job done better than in the past.
The system used to require tethers snaking back behind the fencers, but now a cigarette-pack sized transmitter handles the whole thing wirelessly.
So back to the original statement. I want one. What would you do with your fencing future helmet? I'm seeing some crazy hacking potential in those LEDs.

Check out Big Picture for tons more shots. [Big Picture - Thanks, Michael!]

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