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Last updated: August 8, 2023
This guide explains the concept of smartphone laser tag with augmented reality, why it hasn’t yet been successful, and why it may never will.
With the rise of smartphones in the last 15-20 years, it was only a matter of time before the home laser tag industry would develop a smartphone laser tag concept.
Several smartphone laser tag sets with augmented reality effects have been produced over the years, but with mixed results. Smartphones are a necessity in today’s society, and home laser tag is a popular game, so why is it that smartphone laser tag hasn’t been very successful?
In this article, I am going to explain why, and I will also be looking at a few smartphone laser tag products that haven’t met expectations.
What Is Augmented Reality?
Most of us will be familiar with the concept of virtual reality. It’s basically computer-generated environments that we can interact with.
Augmented reality (AR) is a bit different. AR is the result of using technology to superimpose information — sounds, images, and text — on the real world we are seeing. It adds to the reality rather than replacing it.
In terms of smartphone augmented reality laser tag, this means your smartphone screen displays extra elements on top of what you are seeing.
Not all smartphone laser tag sets offer true augmented reality though, but the concept is generally very similar.
3 Reasons Smartphone Laser Tag Has Never Succeeded
Here are three reasons why I believe the smartphone home laser tag concept hasn’t been successful yet, and why it probably never will be.
1. Smartphones Continuously Evolve
Smartphones have a market lifespan shorter than your thumb. That new iPhone you bought yesterday will be outdated tomorrow. Okay, slightly exaggerated, but I’m sure you get the point.
Can you imagine the enormous ongoing cost of staying up to date with the ever-evolving smartphone market? Smartphone laser tag guns and their apps will need to continuously evolve with that market, otherwise they will end up being outdated and incompatible.
With regular, old-school home laser tag, this problem doesn’t exist. You build a product, fine-tune it based on reviews, and then you simply keep marketing and selling the product.
There is no real need to keep developing new versions of that laser tag product once that product is considered stable.
2. It’s a Risky Game
Yes, I think smartphone laser tag is potentially quite risky and even dangerous.
The first problem I see is that running around while focusing on your smartphone screen is an accident waiting to happen.
Sure, you won’t be looking at that little screen non-stop, but with true augmented reality, that smartphone screen will be your primary focus. And that’s risky, especially when playing battles outside on the streets.
The other issue is a bit different. Picture this; you see a dude outside running around with a laser tag gun. He’s far away, so you can’t see things clearly. Then you see another dude coming around the corner, also carrying something that looks like a gun. That could get ugly real quick.
3. It’s Just Not Old-School Enough
Okay, I’ve said it before, I am an old-school kinda guy. For me, the fun of laser tag (and also Nerf) is aiming at and shooting each other without all the unnecessary tech. You grab a blaster and start chasing your enemy. It’s as simple as that.
I do like a scoring system, of course. Some form of technology to keep track of scoring is definitely a good thing to have.
But smartphone laser tag, with augmented reality, sounds great on paper, but I find the extra bells and whistles hugely distracting.
3 Examples of (Failed) Smartphone Laser Tag Products
Let’s take a closer look at a few concrete examples of smartphone augmented reality laser tag products that have either failed or haven’t yet met expectations.
I do want to point out that failure is not a bad thing. I always appreciate when individuals or small companies invest in new products that they believe in. That requires courage and perseverance. Even when the product fails, lessons can be learned, and those lessons can help shape one’s future.
1. Hex3 AppTag Laser Blaster
Launched on Kickstarter in 2012, the Hex3 AppTag Laser Blaster was one of the first home laser tag products that allowed for a smartphone to be attached to the blaster to enhance the laser tag experience.
Check out this video to see what the Hex3 AppTag Laser Blaster was all about:
While it reached its goal of raising $30K, it doesn’t look like the product ever took off, and updates stopped within a year. I think one of the issues with the product was (in)compatibility with different smartphone brands and models.
That said, the concept, at the time, was pretty cool, and the inventor should be praised for trying to bring this product to market.
Funded through Indiegogo, Father.IO was a unique smartphone laser tag system that uses an inceptor that needs to be attached to a smartphone. This device, together with an app, turns the smartphone into a laser tag gun.
And that’s also the biggest issue I see with the Father.io product. You’re not actually using a real laser tag gun. Your smartphone is the laser tag gun. While this is certainly a revolutionary concept, it just feels weird to be shooting with your smartphone.
In my opinion, the fun with laser tag is that you’re shooting each other with gun-shaped toys. Aiming and shooting with a smartphone takes that away, and it’s just a bit counterintuitive.
Watch this video to get an idea of how Father.IO works:
Pretty cool, right?
It’s evident that they invested heavily in their marketing efforts, and I personally quite appreciate the passion they seemed to have for their product.
But sadly, the product never took off. They generated a good amount of money on the Indiegogo website, but the product just never worked out.
Looking at the most recent updates and comments placed, it’s obvious that the product failed and that most of the backers have missed out.
It’s a real pity. I love it when people get together and design and create a brand new product from scratch, driven by a healthy dose of passion. But some things just aren’t meant to be.
3. Recoil Laser Tag by Skyrocket
Released in 2017 by tech-entertainment company Skyrocket, Recoil Laser Tag is a revolutionary augmented reality laser tag system that allows up to 16 players to participate in the same battle.
Recoil revolves around a central Wifi game hub that functions as a GPS-enabled local network router. Each blaster in a battle uses a smartphone with an app that connects to the game hub. The features on paper are pretty unique, but, as you can imagine, the system is also quite complicated.
I actually quite like the concept behind it, with a centralized unit. And the blasters, I must admit, do look pretty cool.
At the time of writing, they are still selling these smartphone laser tag sets online. However, the numbers don’t look very impressive, and I expect this product to be phased out soon.
What About Nerf Laser Ops Pro?
Can Nerf be our smartphone laser tag savior?
Nerf Laser Ops Pro was released in 2018 and is a pretty cool product. You can check out my review of Laser Ops Pro here.
The best part? You don’t necessarily need to attach your smartphone to the gun in order to play. You can play a great laser tag battle with Laser Ops Pro without using any smartphones.
- Face off in head-to-head live-action laser battles right out of the box with...
- Each alphapoint blaster features light and sound effects, unlimited ammo,...
- Each of these 2 laser ops pro Nerf toy blasters fires a single-shot ir beam up...
In other words, the smartphone aspect is entirely optional. Without using the app, the Laser Ops Pro blasters are fully functional, with light and sound effects, indicators for health, ammo, and teams, a quick-reload button, and more.
They are pretty awesome laser tag blasters without the augmented reality effects. If you do want to use your smartphone, you can either attach it to the blaster or your arm with the special armbands that are included. Download the corresponding app, and you’re good to go.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you like the concept of augmented reality smartphone laser tag? Or do you agree with the issues that I have shared?
Best home laser tag sets currently available.