Project Type: Game Design, Physical Computing

Nerf-Lander Photo by Tom Igoe

The core concept of Nerf-Lander is a game that is controlled and defined by its physical interface. Our goal was to bring elements of video games out into the real world. We looked at different video games and realized that traditionally, users haven't physically interacted with them in any meaningful way. The Wii and the Kinect are currently changing this, but players are still limited to a small number of specific controllers. We wanted to allow the user to actually experience the fight with proper physical objects, while harnessing the computational score-keeping powers of videos in the form of a visual heads-up display.

We bought two 42" Nerf swords, covered the edges in copper tape, and soldered on a wire which ran to a breadboard. We then sewed 5 patches of copper mesh edged with nylon to two hooded sweatshirts we purchased (both upper arm, lower arms, and the heart). The sword functioned as power, and the sweatshirts functioned as ground, so that when the sword touched the copper patches on the sweatshirt, a circuit was closed and a hit was recorded by the Arduino microcontroller. We also drilled into the Nerf swords and installed a column of five super-bright LEDs that cycled up and down like a fluctuating power bar; players score more points if they make contact when all the LEDs are lit up. Additionally, we placed super-bright LEDs underneath the copper mesh patches on the sweatshirts. These LEDs randomly lit up one at a time, and players score more damage if they make contact with the copper patch while the LED is lit up.

Players are able to monitor their damage through a projected heads-up display consisting of two characters, the “artist” and the “nerd” (a play on ITP's culture and community, which consists of people from both art and technology backgrounds). Each body part has its own individual health bar, while a master health bar at the bottom of the screen tracks overall damage. Whichever player is able to completely deplete the health bar for each of his/her opponents' limbs, and thereby fully deplete the master health bar, wins.

Nerf-Lander was featured in the 2010 ITP Winter Show. Some brief footage of the game in action, courtesy of Arturo Vidich and Nisma Zaman: