It seems like our project has gathered quite a bit of a following in the last few weeks. Multiple people have already shown interest in building their own, some even helping with different aspects of the system like the weapon optics or making components to spice up the battlefield!
(Thanks to Anthony Webb and Nathan here ^^)
However, let me say this loud and clear:
I'm not 100% satisfied with the current hardware!
It will work just fine, but it has a bunch of quirks and small errors - things that I feel should be addressed and improved before I can confidently recommend that others build their own version of the system.
Don't get me wrong, if you want a challenge, by all means, go ahead and try this out!
But you'll have to deal with some quirks in the code, a little bit of awkward wiring... It's just not as good as it should be.
If you want to make your own system but you are willing to wait a little bit, please do so!
I expect to get back to this Lasertag project by the end of 2021, plus or minus a few months!
Like many hackers on here, I don't just have this one project, and my attention is currently elsewhere. Right now I want to get my DIY Smart Home back online after it broke down recently due to a number of "Ah, I'll worry about that later", and there are a few other projects that I'd like to go through first.
So, what's up next?
With all that said and done, I do want to give you guys a list of what I intend to fix up for the next version!
There's actually quite a bit, so bear with me for a moment.
- The main processor will be swapped out, from the ESP32 to, hopefully, an ESP32-S3. The CPU's vectoring instructions should hopefully speed up OPUS Audio decoding, while the extended I/O give more options for buttons and other peripherals.
- Then there's the optics. The current IR LED setup just uses a small tube to straighten out the beam a bit. In the future, I'd want to use a proper Lens + LED setup. Actually, I want to make the IR LED move back and forth to implement a variable cone of fire and combine that with a proper constant-current driver that will allow me to control the range at which the IR signal can be received. That way, I hope to implement damage falloff over distance!
The same weapon could switch between being a long-range sniper and a close-range shotgun. Neat, huh?
- A connector for a proper display should be added. I always liked the charm of OLED panels, so this will probably just be an I2C or SPI line to connect to a cheap SSD1327 module, but even just that would be great!
- I want better haptic feedback too. Right now, the system just uses a simple vibration motor, but that doesn't really offer the same 'kick' that I'd like to have. I'm thinking perhaps a solenoid with a strong driver could be interesting, to really give at least a bit of a clicky feel here.
- The current battery management is a bit floppy. A better charger would make larger LiPos easier to use, and there is no good shutdown or battery SOC measurement. A proper battery monitoring chip would help out a lot here.
- I want to add a headphone socket to let users plug in their headphones, giving them game-stats and other announcements.
- The way the board connects to the rest of the hardware needs to be cleaned up, some parts don't use any connectors at all and require you to just solder in stuff... Ew?
The current software is just... A bit of a mess, frankly?
The current repository is just one huge chunk of folders, branches, and I barely tag what I use where etc.
In the remake, I would write the entire batch of software from the ground up, making sure to properly keep things clean and well-documented. Things would be put into more appropriate components so that they can be reused more easily, and the different elements of the software etc. should be kept in separate repos, with better branch management.
Lastly, this is gonna be one of the more fun aspects of redesigning this stuff!
The current casing is just... Not that interesting. It's small, it's practical, but I think it fails to really hit that 'Sci-Fi Weapon' look for me.
In the newer version, I'll try to design a bigger, better casing, while still trying to keep it printable on most commonly available 3D printers. Also, I want more LEDs, which is always a good thing~
The same thing goes for the shoulder sensors. Again, they currently just are a bit too small and underwhelming to be that interesting, so I am thinking of designing a PCB for them that can easily be manufactured, includes a bunch more LEDs, and making something that actually looks like a piece of Sci-Fi armour rather than just a little glowy dot.
All in all, it's not really one "huge" thing, but it IS a lot of small quality of life improvements that, I feel, will ultimately bring this project's hardware above the level of that of commercially available systems.
Despite this, I want to stress this: I will always try to keep this project as hackable and open as possible, making sure that those who want to reproduce it, can do so somewhat easily.
One quick last thing for those that already read through this big pile:
I felt like setting up a small ko-fi. It's not meant to be an obligation, everything I make will remain 100% open and there won't be any benefits, but... I feel like if someone really enjoys what I make, they should have a chance to give a little donation too :>