The latest real-life take on laser tag uses augmented reality, a small infrared peripheral, and your smartphone's Internet capabilities to put you at war with people both in your area and around the world. Touted as a real-life, massively multiplayer first-person shooter game, Father.IO turns your phone into a virtual weapon.
This is hardly the first time we've seen laser tag go into the real world. IRLShooter combines laser tag with zombies, an interactive storyline, and a purpose-built environment. Skirmos is a hackable laser tag system with a color LCD screen mounted on the guns. AppTag offers more of a Nerf-like version of augmented reality laser tag. And failed Kickstarter project iTager tried to put laser tag on a grand scale with an ultra-long-range wireless system. But Father.IO is a bit different again.
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It shares a lot in common with Google's augmented reality world domination game Ingress. Like Ingress, Father.IO will have a free app that lets you choose a faction and then battle for control over the 50 sq m (150 sq ft) territory you're physically standing in at any moment. The map data comes from OpenStreetMap, which has enough detail that the game can give places like universities, banks, and hospitals special in-game significance.
As Ingress' designers like to say, the world becomes the game. Unlike Ingress, however, Father.IO's quests, resource gathering, and base building is just the sideshow. Ingress is all about espionage and intrigue, but Father.IO is primarily a game about shooting real people in the face with an imaginary gun.
It offers team or free-for-all deathmatch modes for quick skirmishes against whoever's in the area, plus a web-based commander mode for directing your team from your browser while you (procrastinate from) work and weekly social events. The main "humans versus evolved" faction war restarts every three months – the developers say the results aren't trivial, though, and top players will be able to unlock advanced classes, better gear for their character, and higher rankings).
On the hardware side, Father.IO is powered by an iPhone or Android smartphone and a clip-on peripheral called The Inceptor. This is a keychain-sized polycarbonate sensor dongle, measuring 70 x 25 x 30 mm (2.8 x 1 x 1.2 in) with a weight of 30 g (1.1 oz). It's wrapped in six infrared receiving sensors that are designed to detect shots from any angle or direction at an estimated range of about 50 m (160 ft). The video below shows what this Inceptor hardware looks like.
It also has an onboard ARM M0 processor, Bluetooth for interfacing with your phone, a microUSB charging port, and an optical collimator to define a hitbox and ensure that only infrared light striking within that box counts as a hit.
Father.IO is currently on Indiegogo, with a target of US$50,000 that was passed within its first 24 hours. At the time of writing it's up to around $90,000 with a month remaining and 14 stretch goals still to hit. Pledges currently start at $20 for one Father.IO Inceptor and go all the way up to $10,000 for a "Party Pack" consisting of 10 Inceptors, two launch party tickets, and a few other perks.
If all goes to plan, the Inceptors should start shipping around the middle of this year.
You can watch the Father.IO Indiegogo pitch below.