I was fortunate enough to spend a solid chunk of my adolescence strapped into an ill-fitting vest and shooting lasers at friends of mine, but a group of technically minded youngsters and their mentors in southern California didn’t just want to play laser tag.
No, the crew at San Diego-based ThoughtSTEM wanted to whip up a (slightly) more subtle laser tag system of their own, and they’re just about there — now they’ve kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to help bring it to market.
The wearable sensor the team has cobbled together is rather neat if only because of how unobtrusive it’s meant to be. Rather than go with a traditional (and bulky) vest, ThoughtSTEM has instead put together a small PCB that’s meant to be worn under a layer of clothing so all that’s visible are the six LEDs that change colors to display your remaining hit points.
For better or worse, you won’t have to lug around any plastic guns either. The sensors on the wearable unit can be triggered by any gadget that can emit infrared pulses at 38kHz, which means most of the remote controls currently cluttering up your living room will probably do the trick. That also means that with a little hackery, you could probably rig up a more traditional IR gun without too much trouble (there seems to be more than a few people who’ve already tried doing just that).
Alright fine, it may lack the panache that come with some more expensive, elaborate setups, but it’s a very neat first project for a crew of savvy young students and their college-age mentors. All told, the ThoughtSTEM team is looking for $10,000 in funding to improve the design of the wearable PCBs and produce them on a larger scale, as well as put together an online storefront to sell them from. $75 will net you a fully assembled target unit, but if you’re willing to apply some of your own elbow grease you can pick up the schematics and a pre-programmed processor for $25, or a bag full of parts for $49. While the proceeds of the Kickstarter campaign will help lock down the particulars of production, ThoughtSTEM aims to funnel whatever future money they make into the program’s coffers so those SoCal mentors continue to run workshops and summer camp programs for tech-savvy middle school and high school kids.