We pride ourselves in always pushing the sport of fencing forwards and at the 2017 World Championships in Leipzig we wanted to show something really special. Ben calls it the moonshot piste, something that can once again transform the presentation of the sport. It is not until you see the piste in person that you can appreciate how totally awesome it is.
A moonshot idea is one that reinvents and revolutionises an industry or in our case a sport. Normally designers take a single product and look to make a series of incremental improvements. A moonshot idea is to improve by a factor of 10 making it a giant leap forward in a short space of time. Google calls these ideas project X, which just makes it sound very cool. I have always looked at each problem as they come up and then acted on this individual problem. Often through discussions with fencers, a “problem” is identified and we work out a solution together.
Examples include Grip on gloves, Grip shapes on handles, lighter clothing, wicking linings and silver wire bodywires. Each idea is good and in incremental improvement and over time you can really see a change… but the idea to jump forward 10 steps at a time seemed like a goal worth investigating and something I started in 2016…..
So what would my moonshot idea in fencing look like?
First, we need to look at all the things that keep the sport small and inaccessible. For me how do we make the sport more engaging for the audience and how do we make the time in-between bouts more interesting.
My idea was simply this: a fully interactive piste that could show real information about the fight live. For example how fast a fencer moved. The total distance travelled that match, how many micro seconds the fencer had missed the double hit by and so on.
I happened to meet a company that made fully glass floors for the sport of squash and they said they had the technology for making a full LED piste with touch sensitive panels but the problem was glass is not conductive so does not work for typical fencing scoring systems.
Manchester last year I happened to be at the national institute of Graphene in Manchester and they are doing some amazing developments for future materials. The substance graphene is a mega conductor and also transparent with the added bonus of being stronger than steel! The people in Manchester helped us come up with a solution to coat glass with a conductive surface that was strong enough to withstand a sword while being transparent and conductive. (A tall order).
1 year later and we are demonstrating a sample mini piste at the World Championships in Germany. We only had space on our stand for a 5 meter by 1.5 meter mini piste but we have a fully sized piste ready for testing. Unfortunately, there was no space to demo this fully at the World Championships with spectators but we hope to do a full-size demonstration in the near future. Watch this space, the future is coming.