Laser Tag

The very first video game I played on a console was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I thoroughly enjoyed that game and played it so much that I completed all of the achievements except the two that required co-op play (Hmm, probably should have focused all that time into making some friends). So when I was offered the chance to simulate that in real life in the form of laser tag, I did not hesitate to sign up. And boy-oh-boy was it fun!

I played two games of laser tag for the first time in my life and immensely enjoyed both, ranking in the top 5 on my team both times and obtaining the highest accuracy in each game. The feeling of practicing my fictional battlefield skills and taking out people left and right while navigating the arena without getting up from a crouch was exhilarating.

However, on the ride back from the arena, I realized how marvelous the technology was. The laser tag equipment had individual IDs, provided constant feedback like “Great Job!”, and worked extremely well. The scoring was complicated too: 50 points for hitting the gun, 20 for the front, and 10 for the back. I knew I had to find out how it all worked and blog about it.

Visible Spectrum

The term “laser” is actually a misnomer in this case. Instead of actual lasers, infrared(IR) light beams are used to make the game playable. As shown in the above picture, IR light is outside the visible ROYGBIV spectrum (even though this picture colors the whole spectrum for some reason). This makes IR light invisible to the naked eye. The laser we actually see travelling through the fog in the arena are just for theatrics. They don’t actually serve a function.

IR light is not harmful to humans and it cannot pass thorough barriers, making it an ideal choice for running around and shooting it at people. Each gun has a different “pulse”, which is just the IR light with different frequency and amplitude. Each vest has a lot of photoconductors, which are basically tiny receivers (much like the one in your TV) that register when the IR light reaches them. They identify the unique pulse that hit them and the score is recorded for that particular individual. From there, it is a simple matter of writing software that differentiates when a person is hit in the front, back, or on the gun and recording different scores for each situation.

My first experience with laser tag was a lot of fun, and I would totally do it again anytime I can find large groups to go with. I suggest you try it out at least once. It is perfect for large family gatherings, post wedding festivities, or any large functions.