Introduction: Universal Remote Laser Tag

Picture of Universal Remote Laser Tag

Blast away your friends for hours on end with this custom laser tag system. Who needs to pay to play in an arena when you can make your very own game? Best of all, no special equipment is required, because the "guns" are regular universal TV remotes!

Step 1: Parts and Materials

Picture of Parts and Materials

This list includes enough parts to make two complete laser tag vests:

(2x) Safety vest

(2x) Arduino Micro (RadioShack #: 276-258)

(6x) IR receiver (RadioShack #: 276-640)

(2x) piezo transducer (RadioShack #: 273-073)

(6x) red LED (RadioShack #: 55050629) web only

(6x) 360 ohm resistor (RadioShack #: 55049382) web only

(6x) 100 ohm resistor (RadioShack #: 271-1311)

(2x) 1K ohm resistor (RadioShack #: 271-1321)

(10x) 0.1uF capacitor (RadioShack #: 55047557) web only

(2x) micro lever switch (RadioShack #: 275-016)

(2x) SPST slide switch (RadioShack #: 275-401)

(2x) 9V battery (RadioShack #: 23-2211)

(2x) 9V battery snap (RadioShack #: 270-324)

coroplast sheets (old political signs)


sticky-back velcro


Step 2: Design Overview

Picture of Design Overview

My main goals when designing the system were to keep it low cost and easily customized.

The main body is a cheap safety vest covered in bits of coroplast, which is the kind of corrugated plastic you'll typically find in U.S. political campaign signs. Sensors are attached to hex-shaped cut-outs and sewn into the vest. I decided to use three sensors for my set of vests. Since they're all wired in parallel, a "shot" to any one will trigger the whole system. An Arduino Micro serveds as the main controller for the system and is powered by a 9 volt battery. When any one of the sensors detects a "pre-programmed" hit from a remote, a piezo will beep a tune and LEDs will flash above the sensors.

Step 3: Assemble Electronics: Main Board

Picture of Assemble Electronics: Main Board

The circuit isn't terribly complicated, but we've got to try and keep it compact on the small protoboard.

First, solder the Arduino Micro with the USB port facing out.

Next, solder the three 100 ohm resistors to the upper (we'll cal this power) rail.

Solder the NPN transistor with the emitter in the lower (ground) rail.

Solder a 0.1 uF capacitor across the power and ground rails.

Solder wire leads to the micro lever switch.

Solder one of the switch leads to the ground rail and the other to digital pin 2.

Solder the positive lead of the piezo to digital pin 12 and the black lead to the ground rail.

Solder the slide switch to the red lead of the 9V battery snap.

Solder another red wire from the slide switch.

Solder the red lead from the switch to the VIN pin.

Solder the black power lead to the ground rail.

Solder leads to an LED and connect the anode to the output of the 360 ohm resistor.

Solder the cathode of the LED to the collector of the transistor.

Through a 1K ohm resistor, solder the base of the transistor to digital pin 3.

Step 4: Assemble Electronics: Sensor Pads

Picture of Assemble Electronics: Sensor Pads

Next we'll begin making the individual sensors.

First, solder 0.1 uF capacitors across the power pins of the IR receiver. Looking at the flat (back) side of the sensor, the pins from left to right are: power, ground, and output.

Solder a couple feet of wire to the sensor and insulate the connections with heat shrink.

Braid or twist the wires to keep them neat. This will make things easier to sew.

Cut out the hex shapes from the attached template. I used a laser cutter, but a pen knife cuts through coroplast like butter, and an awl, or similarly pokey tool, makes quick holes. Since the underside of the sensor pads will be sewn to the vest, we don't have to worry about burrs or it looking too pretty.

Press the sensor and LED into their respective holes and tape down the wires.

Solder the anode of the LED to the output of another current limiting resistor.

Solder the cathode of the LED to the collector of the transistor.

Solder the anode of the sensor to the output of one of the 100 ohm resistors.

Solder the cathode of the sensor to the ground rail.

Solder the output of sensor to digital pin 11.

Repeat the previous steps as necessary depending on how many sensors you make.

Screw in the main board to the large hex.

Pop in the piezo to the main board.

Screw in the slide switch.

Step 5: Vest Assembly

Picture of Vest Assembly

If you don't have any long 2mm screws, some thread will work just fine to hold the lever switch in place.

Tape down the sensor pad where you wish.

Stitch the corners of the sensor pad to the vest. A couple times though each hole should hold each securely.

Sew the wires from the extended sensor pad along the reflective layer.

Before sewing the main sensor pad in place, put a small piece of loop Velcro on the back of the piezo.

Sew the main sensor pad in place.

Put the matching piece of "hook" Velcro on the bottom of the 9 volt.

Slide the 9 volt into the available space and attach the snaps.

Step 6: Electronics Assembly: Program the Vests

Picture of Electronics Assembly: Program the Vests

Now that we've assembled the vests, all we need to do is program them to respond to our remotes! First, download the UR_Laser_Tag sketch and upload it to your Arduino Micro.

Field Programming:

It would be a hassle to need to connect the vests to a computer to reprogram a code, so I added a snippet of code that allows you to "program" a new code without a computer. If you connect the Arduino to a computer, prompts will also appear on the serial monitor.

Hold down the Erase button (the lever switch) and turn on the vest.

Continue to hold down the button until the LEDs flash 6 times.

Release the Erase button. The Arduino is now in "programming" mode and is ready to receive a signal from a remote.

Aim a remote at one of the sensors and press the desired "firing" button. If the Arduino captured the code, then the LEDs will blink six times. The Arduino is now in "confirmation" mode.

Press the same button again and the Arduino will again blink six times to confirm. The code has now been stored in EEPROM and will be saved for future use.

If the Arduino does not capture the same signal after three attempts, the LEDs will blink slowly twice, then return to "programming" mode.

Once the Arduino has captured and confirmed the signal, the LEDs will blink three times. They will also blink three times during normal start-up, after which time the Arduino is now ready for "target" mode and will buzz and flash when the previously set code is detected. This setup allows for individual systems, so that you don't accidentally shoot yourself. You could allow for it though!

Step 7: Game On!

Picture of Game On!

Enjoy your new custom laser tag system! This is just a working proof of concept, but I would love to see people make a full team or two of vests, or perhaps custom holders for the remotes to look like ray guns. The possibilities are endless.


ncoleman2 (author)2014-10-30

Looks awesome! Just one question: how much did it all cost?

Aleator777 (author)ncoleman22014-10-31

The Arduino is the most expensive, at $25 each, but you could use a much cheaper derivative board for less than $10 per piece. The other components were only a few dollars each. The vests and remotes were ten dollars a pop, but you can sometimes find universal remotes at dollar stores too. All in all I spent ~$100 to make two vests, but you could definitely cut that price in half with similar parts.

Cogura (author)2014-10-31

This would be great if it could detect multiple codes and possibly give different sounds based on which code it detects. Pair that with a Kymera Magic Wand Universal Remote, and you could have wizard battles instead of normal laser tag.

quader4 (author)Cogura2014-11-04

A wizard wand laser tag game?


knottd0506 (author)quader42016-10-22

im developing such a concept now.

Aleator777 (author)Cogura2015-03-14

I've yet to see a fantasy themed digital tag system. This is a great idea. I'm sure the LARP community would love it!

justbennett (author)Cogura2014-11-02

laser Rock Paper Scissors or the wizard equivalent.

Nolan Cash (author)2016-09-16

wouldnt it also be possable to gut out a duck hunt zapper (or something similar), and load it up with a ir led hooked into a arduino pro mini that is programed with a simple pin high = sequence code. and then use the program mode switch on the vest recever to recognize and accept the sequence from the gun?

Ro-gM (author)2016-02-18

good day can u send me the schematic diagram ( and what kind of transistor did you use thanks!!!

danieljr1 (author)2015-11-08

Keen on having a go at this but had a thought - could you use an old games console light gun's optics to focus the IR beam in a straight-ahead direction? Kinda like this instructable here

claire.humphries.9210 (author)2015-10-14

Hi there, I can only get the Arduino nano - would it still work?

ixixell (author)2015-10-04

Will it work with a simple IR LED?

ixixell (author)2015-10-04

Will it work with a simple IR LED?

ixixell (author)2015-10-04

Will it work with a simple IR LED?

DarylM5 (author)2015-09-17

I am a teacher hosting a zombie hunt for Halloween this year... I have about 20 electronic Nerf guns... I need to make about 50 headbands/ receivers for the zombies.... Would this work for what I am doing ? Would I have to program all the head bands to receive 20 different signals?

Aleator777 (author)DarylM52015-09-22

As is, it would need to be modified. I suggested it to be used in a way that doesn't allow you to shoot yourself, but this is unnecessary if you don't mind knowing who shot whom. You can simply "program" each vest to all accept the same remote control code. Hope this helps!

Dannymo (author)2015-07-06

Will this react to a LaserLyte, a laser that is used during dryfire practice with weapons?

Aleator777 (author)Dannymo2015-08-25

Not as is. These are receivers for 38Khz IR receivers.

epitts2 (author)2015-05-17

Dude, if you could retrofit the IR sending unit into a cheap airsoft gun, that would be so bad ass!

Aleator777 (author)epitts22015-08-25

That would look awesome!

DanielR20 (author)2015-04-09

Also- it's challenging to see how you soldered the NPN transistor. Is there a clearer picture there somewhere?

DanielR20 (author)2015-04-09

Is there any way to see the reverse side of the completed soldered board? All I see is the reverse side of the board after the arduino is soldered on. I need to see if I have all of my components correctly done.

Ugifer (author)2014-10-31

I like this project!

I was thinking of a "laser tag" type project for my next kids' project so this could be the start of it. A couple of thoughts:

How directional are the remotes? I would have thought that any press vaguely in the right direction, or even reflected off a wall etc. would set off the sensor. I imagine remotes are not made to be directional.

How do you handle more than two players? For two players you each have a different code and can't self-hit. For three players, each arduino needs to detect the codes of two other players. I don't think that would be hard to implement but it doesn't sound from your description as if you account for this (I haven't delved into the code yet). I'm sure you could store dozens of codes in the 512 bytes (or whatever it is) of EEPROM on an arduino.


Aleator777 (author)Ugifer2014-10-31

Thanks. I hope you go for it!

The remotes I used had a pretty narrow spread, probably <30 degrees, but it really depends on the remote. Reflected light could still trigger the sensors, which is why I suggest players "program" their vests with different remote signals. If you look at the close-up shots of the sensor holes, you can see that the IR receivers are recessed a bit; I chose this because it limits sharp angle and reflective shots, but you could make it more easily triggered by placing them on the outside. The programming sequence gets a bit muddled with more people, but you'd just have to "capture" and additional code for each new player (it's only set up to capture one code right now). If you get to the point where you've built 2+ vests, I'll gladly help you modify the code to accommodate multiple players according to your system.

JWDIYguy (author)Aleator7772015-03-20

What else would I be able to use other than IR receivers? Is there any type of receiver that won't be affected by the light?

leadzeplin (author)2014-10-31


Aleator777 (author)leadzeplin2015-03-14

Thank you

CRASH MA5TER (author)2014-11-02

How much was this to make

Aleator777 (author)CRASH MA5TER2015-03-14

The cost per completed vest is around $50.

UncleEd (author)2014-11-04

Wow! This gave me an idea for yet another way for remote triggering an Arduino. Or anything, for that matter. Thanks for putting in the effort and publishing it.

Aleator777 (author)UncleEd2015-03-14

My pleasure! Post up your IR project if you make it!

T3CHN0 C0W (author)2014-11-04

an improvment you can make is to attach a laser to replace the LED in the remote so its more of a laser tag feeling

Aleator777 (author)T3CHN0 C0W2015-03-14

As long as you were able to modulate the laser diode quickly enough, yes! Just don't shine into someone's eyes.

Too Many Projects (author)2014-11-04

A perfect use for my STNG replica phaser remote... With sound effects.

Set phasers for fun! I couldn't resist...

aiden nicholls (author)2014-12-16

Hey I know!


That would look great! Post a photo if you make one!

abcdefg999 (author)2015-03-07

Thanks. I'm making this with my son. A few corrections:

- the material list doesn't include the breadboard and the NPN transistor

- the instructions say connect piezo to pin 12 and IR to pin 11 but the photos do the reverse. I believe the instructions are correct and consistent with the program

- the step about soldering 360 ohm resisters is left out

- the instruction for the LED should mention that long leg is the anode, and to use a long wire

Thank you.

Isidro J.P (author)2014-11-07

could this nano atmega328 fit or work on this proyect? I don't know anything about arduino and, for a first try, I found too risky to spend 25x2 bucks (plus other components).

Aleator777 (author)Isidro J.P2014-11-07

Try these instead. The trinkets have just enough GPIO and are super tiny! I strongly discourage using Chinese knockoff Arduino boards. They're low quality and there are many non-working counterfeits.

aaza0003 (author)2014-11-07

tomatoskins (author)2014-10-30

That's great!

Aleator777 (author)tomatoskins2014-10-31

Thank you :)

peppypickle (author)2014-10-30

wow, thanks so much for sharing this project - what a cool instructable!

Aleator777 (author)peppypickle2014-10-31

Thanks! I really enjoyed making it!

mquiring1 (author)2014-10-31

Great idea but is Not better You use virbration motor additional? (Sry for my bad english)

Aleator777 (author)mquiring12014-10-31

I had originally planned to use a vibration motor, but I wanted to use a 9V battery, and they're not good for high current applications and I wanted the system to have a decent battery life. This would definitely be great for bigger system thought!

gravityisweak (author)2014-10-31

Back in the 90s when Laser Challenge was pretty popular, my dad
thought it was funny to aim the TV remote out the window and "tag" us
while we were playing. We would all be out and nobody could figure out
who won. Dad would be inside the house cracking up.

Aleator777 (author)gravityisweak2014-10-31

I just googled this since it sounded familiar, man, that really takes me back. I totally played with that system as a kid!

Fission Chips (author)2014-10-31

Awesome! This is really cool and simple. Nice job; this is so cool!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is DJ and I previously made electronic whatsits, 3D-printed thingamabobs, and laser-cut kajiggers for the Instructables Design Studio; now I build and repair ... More »
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