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AppTag revamps first-person shooters with augmented reality through smartphones


February 28, 2012

The pistol grip can be detached to fit the AppTag's sensor and trigger to almost any toy gun with an accessory rail

The pistol grip can be detached to fit the AppTag's sensor and trigger to almost any toy gun with an accessory rail

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By now we've seen quite a few examples of augmented reality being used to let people zap virtual creatures in devices like the Nintendo 3DS and the appBlaster. Now Jon Atherton, inventor of the jaja stylus, is shaking up the concept by making the targets your friends and adding virtual collectibles and objectives into the mix. With his AppTag Laser Blaster attachment for smartphones, you'll be able to play first-person shooter games in the real world on any iOS or Android device, complete with virtual power-ups and other features usually reserved for console games.

The AppTag uses infrared beams and sensors to fire and register shots, which are transmitted to an attached smartphone. You might expect this sort of device to connect using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but the blaster actually emits high frequency sounds that a phone's microphone can pick up, similar to the jaja stylus. According to Atherton, this was done to keep the headphone jack free to attach a headset and communicate with other players in-game. The sounds are set at a high frequency but low volume, meaning neither humans nor animals will be able to hear them.

The attachment features a sliding bar to hold any smartphone even while it's in a case. The retail package will include a pistol grip, but this can be detached to fit the AppTag's sensor and trigger to almost any toy gun with an accessory rail (like a Nerf or Buzzbee gun). It also has a reload button and four extra buttons for app developers to add more gameplay elements.

Games function like a cross between laser tag and console-style first-person shooters. Friends can get together and shoot at each other, while the smart device tracks hits and each player's health. Additionally, players can pick up power-ups by shooting them when they show up through the smartphone's screen as if they were in the real world. Power-ups could be health packs, ammo, additional weapons, or even separate objectives and targets.

Luckily for software developers, the AppTag won't just be limited to games produced in-house. An SDK will become available in the next few weeks, allowing any interested game developers to create their own apps around the device with their own gameplay elements. Atherton himself is already looking into adding sniper zoom, GPS tracking, and voice communication features.

Atherton is currently running a Kickstarter project until March 17 to raise funds to finalize the device. He tells us that it is available now by direct order for between US$25 and $35, depending on how many you buy. He added that once it officially launches, it should be priced at under $40.

Take a look at the video below to see Atherton explain some more details of the AppTag Laser Blaster.

Source: Kickstarter

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

It is nice to see that some electronic developers are realizing that bandwidth doesn't magically appear when wanted.


Hi, Just to clarify... The gun communicates with the attached phone by high frequency sound. It communicates (shoots) at your opponents AppTag unit using an IR laser. Up to 512 players can engage in combat in each game zone. There is some other magic mixed in there but that is the basics! Thanks Jon Atherton

Jon Atherton
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