LyteShot Blasts Laser Tag Into the Future

I'm normally an indoor "it not been ALL day" cat, what with playing video games and being a writer for a living. So the idea of the LyteShot, a sensor-based mobile gaming platform that allows laser tag (and much more) in the real world, wouldn't usually get me out of my comfy abode. But after hearing that it won an Innovation Honoree award at CES 2015 in early January, I widened my eyes and eagerly set an appointment with CEO Mark Ladd and CTO Tom Ketola, who demoed the Lyteshot and showed all of its possibilities.

Instead of being positioned as merely a pair of peripherals and several compatible apps, the LyteShot would be better described as a platform. It's made specifically for multiplayer-based live-action games like Assassin, with a Lyter handheld device that looks like a curved Wii remote, a LytePuck receiver, and the LyteShot mobile app system that sends data quickly to and from its proprietary cloud service and then back to all of the peripherals. Specifically for Assassin, players wear the LytePuck receiver preferably on a strap around their wrist, attempt to shoot the LytePuck tied to other players by using the red-dot sight of the Lyter, and then have the mobile app control all of the scoring and rules. This is exactly what Mark Ladd had in mind, a system that would encourage kids to play video games and play outside at the same time.

Of course, if that was all the LyteShot did, it would just be laser tag or a lesser form of paintball. So to top that, the LyteShot makes 3D printing extremely easy and will allow users to create amazing shells for the Lyter. The LyteShot's entire software development kit (SDK) is open-source, giving tech-savvy fans the ability to craft their favorite video game guns whether that's Garrus Vakarian's sniper rifle, Master Chief's heavy needler, or James Bond's golden gun. Do a little digital modeling, put on a little paint, and you've got a quick replica.

Lyter (top left), LytePuck (middle-center), 3D-printed shells for Lyter (right)

For the Assassin demo, the duo also leant me a pair of the Epson Moverio BT-200 smart glasses, which provide augmented reality not too far from Google Glass. Putting the Epson glasses (over my own glasses), I could view a compass line (like in Fallout 3) along the bottom and a red diamond in the direction of my target. An icon in the corner would immediately tell me whether it was my turn to be the hunted or the hunter, and if I raised my head to the sky, I could see a picture of my intended target.

If the LyteGun doesn't suit your needs, you can turn the Lyter into a wand or a dagger, particularly for a compatible fantasy game called Besieged. Taking the role of a warrior, rogue, or wizard, players in this live-action RPG are split into two teams that compete to capture various points Domination-style. The wizard, in particular, is a fantastic adaptation, giving you a digital spellbook of six three-stroke gestures that can be used provided you have enough mana. Sure, you can flip through the book on your phone, but you can also learn the gestures for all the spells so that you waste time being a total newb.

Beyond that, the creators of Humans vs. Zombies have created another game dubbed Invasion that works like a tower-defense game. It wasn't demoed at the appointment, but it just goes to show that the LyteShot will give developers plenty of freedom to create innovative live-action games, perhaps even single-player games that involve shooting digital aliens with the Lyter. Sounds like a mini-game out of Watch Dogs, really. Moreover, these games can turn everyday objects into significant game boosts; for example, turning cardboard cutouts into in-game claymore mines, helicopter drones into in-game turrets or airdrops, or making Starbucks coffee into health recovery items (could you imagine?).

Tom Ketola (left) and Mark Ladd (right)

One of the more pressing issues, however, is the fact that the LyteShot will be supporting gun-based multiplayer games in the real world which could potentially lead to unfortunate situations. It would only take one overly concerned citizen or some person who has no idea what these live-action players are doing to assume that a friendly match of Assassin is a terrorist attack. And if any of those 3D-printed guns are painted black, that might lead police on a night patrol to think that they're too real. To that end, the Lyteshot developers will be starting a "Don't Be That Guy" campaign (props to the name) to bring awareness to this issue.

The LyteShot for Android and iOS devices will release around September this year and the peripherals will likely be placed at the $60-$80 mark. Of course, that figure will grow exponentially with the augmented reality glasses, though time is in LyteShot's favor, given that the growth of AR and VR headsets in the marketplace will gradually (and hopefully) lower their price. Now that the original Kickstarter for LyteShot was cancelled about a week ago, it may see another Kickstarter in the future, though it is in the midst of looking for additional investors. Regardless, the LyteShot suite of software and hardware is an innovative foundational platform that will hopefully have enough adoption in the live-action community to establish a foothold in the ever-evolving mobile domain.