Ah, laser tag: is there anything better? The answer is a definitive no. For those who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, there’s a good chance that one of your favorite memories involves strapping on a cloth vest that was either too tight or too loose, grabbing a plastic gun with a phone line at the end of it and running through a dimly lit arena, trying to blast slow kids to pieces. It’s a wonderful feeling and one that I experienced frequently as a near-professional player of the sport (which I will never delve into). Unfortunately, laser tag has been slowly dying since its peak, with most arenas a shell of their former self or closed altogether. While there’s been a handful of upstarts trying to recapture the market (and nostalgia) like Austin’s Blazer Tag, these are few and far between, preventing laser tag from sweeping the market again. Enter upstart Proxy42, who has developed a mobile laser tag game and the technology to make it possible.
When you take away all the neon-painted walls and cardboard fortresses, laser tag is a simple game of shooting infrared beams at infrared sensors and hope that it registers. That’s why since being introduced all those years ago, not much has changed in the pure implementation of the technology. As such, it’s amazing that nobody has adapted it past home versions of the game which commonly took 300 D batteries to run.
Proxy42’s Interceptor is basically just the laser tag gun and vest technology scaled down to a keychain-sized device. The device hooks into your phone (the exact method of which is still being perfected, but we were shown both a Velcro and plastic clasping device) and pairs to it via Bluetooth. Hitting a button on your phone shoots an IR beam out of the device which can travel up to 164 feet. If aimed directly at another Interceptor, it will register the beam if it hits one of the six IR sensors surrounding the device. Exactly like laser tag works at a family fun center, but on a smaller scale.
To facilitate this interaction, Proxy42 has created a game called Father.io which overlays a gun onto your smartphone screen and has you aim it at another player and tap a button to shoot or reload. How fun or challenging the game is depends on where it’s being played. Play a small-scale version in an office or take it to a park and let the strategy open up. We were able to demo the game during GDC at the Yerba Buena Gardens to test a wide open space and while the massive amounts of industry folk sulking around made us not want to get too wrapped up into it, we were successfully able to use real world items around the park as cover, which was a neat feeling.
Still unsure Proxy42 has what it takes to recapture this fledgling market? Not only did the project (mainly based on Father.io) raise $432,629 from consumers via Indiegogo last year, but Lenovo and iDreamSky have announced this week that they’ve invested a combined two million dollars into Proxy42. This funding will allow the company to accelerate manufacturing capabilities and software development as they gear up to go to market.
It’s amazing that nobody has tried to port the laser tag concept onto smartphones before, but Proxy42 has done an impressive job doing just that. There’s really not a whole lot to the tech; it’s basically just an IR emitter and receiver with Bluetooth capabilities, but it works exactly as it should. The real test will be if multiple people will adopt the tech as playing laser tag solo won’t be much fun. Helping that to occur will be an affordable price tag (Interceptor price yet to be announced; Father.io is free), the fact that Brookstone will be distributing the device and more games planned for the Interceptor platform. Laser tag was always meant to recreate futurist action and now that we’re in said future, it seems high time to utilize our advanced tech to bring it back.