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High-tech blow for martial arts

By CNN's Kristie Lu Stout

The hugo sensor measures the force of a blow, making deciding on points easier for judges.
Martial arts
Technology (general)

CALIFORNIA (CNN) -- Two inventors are bringing computing into the martial arts sparring ring, by developing a wireless system that senses the force of a hit.

In the Korean sport Tae Kwon Do, competitors earn points for landing blows to certain areas of an opponent's body.

Traditionally, a human judge decides whether a blow is accurate or powerful enough to count as a point -- but sometimes a judge misses a move.

Dr Ed Chi, a scientist from the Palo Alto Research Center in California and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, co-created the technology that will help judges to make a more accurate call.

It works by implanting wireless sensors into the chest protector, or "hogu".

The hogu sensors convert the force of a blow into an electrical signal, which is then sent to a laptop base station.

Chi says the technology makes the points scoring much more accurate.

"I think the players themselves will definitely welcome the technology because they know how often inaccurate scoring can occur in these kinds of matches."

Fellow hogu sensor inventor Jin Song says the system could also be used in other contact sports including fencing.

"Typically the actions are so fast, the judges will just sit there and they'll watch and they'll make mistakes -- just typical human mistakes," Song says.

"Sometimes the action is so fast they can't really tell whether they got a good hit or not."

Song says Tae Kwon Do is steeped in tradition and some people may not welcome the high-tech development.

"I think the judges will accept it. In fact, I've had many discussions with judges who accept it. The problem is whether the sport itself will actually embrace it as part of their standard equipment."

He says the inventors want to sell their device for $100-150 a piece.

More than 20 million people throughout the world study Tae Kwon Do.

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