DIY Laser Tag System Comes With All The Bells And Whistles

While VR is becoming really immersive, it still can’t compete with a game of good old laser tag to get the blood pumping and spending quality time with friends. [Xasin] has been working on a DIY laser tag system for a while now, and it has grown to include an impressive array of features and customizability.

Named LZRTag, the project started back in 2018 with simple ATmega328 based prototypes on breadboards. It has since evolved to a fully-featured system with ESP32s in the 3D printed pistol communicating with a Raspberry Pi/Linux game server over MQTT. Each pistol also features an accelerometer, I2S audio amp and speaker for game sounds, and WS2812 RGP LEDs for light effects. IR Lasers are used as emitters to target wearable IR receivers with more RGB LEDs wired to the pistol.

A Ruby server on a Linux machine takes care of all the communications, game management, shot validation, and scoring. It can handle up to 255 players and is designed to be extremely customizable for game modes, weapons classes, or any other feature you would like to have. [Xasin] has also created IR beacons to add even more possibilities, such as capture the flag, safe zones, and revive zones.

We really like the flexibility of the system, and it would make an awesome group project for a hackerspace. You could also add a shock module to motivate players a bit more to avoid getting shot. If you want more gun, take a look at the laser tag rifle with a HUD we featured earlier in the year

28 thoughts on “DIY Laser Tag System Comes With All The Bells And Whistles

    1. Not a strange number at all. 2^8 is 256. Therefore 255 is the largest positive number you can store as an 8-bit int represented by a single byte on a device such as an 8-bit micro. This means you don’t have to resort to doing 16-bit operations using 2x bytes, as this can be quite inefficient on low-end devices.

    2. Hi!
      Owner of the project here!!

      255 is, as Fabian said, a limitation of the IR Protocol that is used to transmit which player the shot belongs to, which is an 8-bit number (and 0 being reserved for uninitialized players or the Game Master). It could definitely be changed to be larger, but… Honestly, whoever builds and organizes a system with *that* many players will gain all of my respect <3

      1. Very nice! You have added lots of detail to the configurable game rules!
        How big of an arena is possible? Is it limited to a central wifi router’s reach?
        How far will an ir shot go?

        Where do you physically wear the hit sensors? (Can players cover up the sensor? This was a problem in the 1980s version I had as a kid).

        Very cool system!

        1. Thanks for the compliment!
          The arena size is technically unlimited. As long as you can set up a WiFi network in your whole arena that has sufficiently low latency, it’s all good. The ESPs don’t need to communicate with each other, they only need access to a central server.
          Technically you can just use your phone as WiFi Hotspot, that might work too!

          The IR Shot distance is something I really need to improve. The current design doesn’t have any lensing or a particularly well chosen LED, so there is a lot of wiggle-room.
          In dark situations, it gets to about 40m or so? But again, with a stronger IR LED and maybe a lens, or by using a IR Laser, this can be increased a lot!

          The sensors are currently attached to the shoulders, usually, but there is no limit on the number of IR receivers you can chain together, at least none that I know of.
          As such, you should be able to just make a vest with a ton of sensors that are hard to cover up.


  1. I’m not sure if I’d want my kids to run around with real IR lasers. I built a laser tag system myself a couple of years ago, and I went for high current IR LEDs with a lens – in fact, I replaced the LEDs in a flashlight. Range is impressive: I’m getting 150 meters in bright sunlight, no kidding. But the fact that I also used the rather oldfashioned Atmel platform sort of stopped me developing it further.

      1. This isn’t using a Laser at the moment, no.
        Actually this is just using a standard IR LED similar to a TV remote, but a variation with very low beam spread angle, something around 20°
        I don’t even have a lens, I never found a place to buy ’em so I am using a beam guide of sorts that is embedded into the casing!

        I am looking at using a VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) diode, that would be a true IR laser, but at low power and, according to the Vishay IR LED Safety datasheet, would not produce enough brightness to cause harm even at 100% duty cycle. It should still massively increase the range of the system.

        The 150 meter range in Sunlight is seriously astonishing though, my setup has about 2m of range in bright summer sun, so definitely not nearly as good. Then again that’s just a matter of swapping the emitter, driving it a bit harder etc.
        About 60m at night or inside a building with low IR pollution, BTW.

        1. The lasertag system we use (when not in the middle of a pandemic :) is based on the really old WOW system released in the 80’s. Of course its all custom built now and has had a data component added. With an IR led and a small 16.5mm diameter lens we can get 180+ metres in daylight. Slightly less on a really sunny day but there’s not too many of those in the UK.
          The IR led has a +/- angle of 3 degrees to start with and the lens narrows that down further.

          Some of the rifles using bigger lenses (40mm+) can get 400-500 meters. Not that we have any sites that can utilise that range.

          Try using a vishay vsly5940 ir led. When pulsed at @1A with a low duty cycle the range can get impressive.

    1. Good question!
      The easy answer is actually that you don’t really do that.

      I bought myself a cheap ticket out of the tricky sensor solution by instead using standard TV remote receivers from VISHAY.
      They have an open-drain output, so you can easily chain a lot of these receivers together to cover a large area and detect the beam, and they provide a very clean digital signal. Because they use a 40kHz modulation that also means that they can cope with a bit of ambient noise and IR pollution, so it works well for the data transmission I am using.

  2. Hi good people, my friend and i made a IR tag game for rc fpv planes. We use arduino nano and max 7456 for osd, cheap 1w 940nm ir led with focusing lens(5º) and tsop 4838 (38 kHz) with some hardware band pass filter (940nm) everything works but our range is only about 10m on sunny day can you give me some advice please in what direction we need to turn, do we need different led and ir sensor or is there a part of code that can cope with direct sun light? Our shots are coded so in arduino we only get 2 codes for now, no trash enters arduino but still we get poor range.

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