Playing real-world Space Invaders with real-world lasers

Warning: Do not try this at home.

When it comes to old-school arcade gaming, Space Invaders undoubtedly joins the ranks of Pac-Man as one of, if not, the most influential 8-bit pioneers. Originally released in 1978, the laser cannon shooting game led the way for the industry in migrating from just Pong-inspired sports games towards action-packed ones involving fantastical scenarios. However, the pixelated blocky graphic graphics always seemed a little unrealistic. That’s why one engineer has made a real-world version with real-world lasers.


In anticipation of Arduino Day 2015, Martin Raynsford — who happens to be one of the owners of UK-based laser cutter manufacturer Just Add Sharks — decided to brought the idea to life using the hardware of a modified Whitetooth A1 laser cutter along with a laptop keyboard to serve as its gamepad. An Arduino Nano (ATmega328) was also mounted to a custom 80W laser controller to enable side-to-side movement to help shoot the paper invaders, each clipped to a plate and driven by stepper motors.

“X,Y and Z; step, direction and limits make the first 9 I/O, laser on/off and laser PWM make the last two outputs. The USB connection provides serial input for the board and the communication link with the PC,” Raynsford explains.


How it works is relatively simple. A player watches the game via an overhead webcam while a PC controller sends simple left/right/fire commands. The PC controller was written with, and the images were captured using OpenCV.

Given the genuine risk of fire, Raynsford advised that he completed a test burn before the actually playing the game. During those tests, the Maker discovered that the paper invaders were too close together. In other words, fire would spread across a row quite easily should a player hit the intended target. After a few minor alterations, “The game played well and resulted in flamey death for the Space Invaders and not the laser cutter, [so] I consider that to be a win condition.”


Intrigued? You can read more about the project on its official page here, or watch it in action below.

3 thoughts on “Playing real-world Space Invaders with real-world lasers

  1. Pingback: Here are some unbelievable projects to help celebrate Arduino Day | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pinball Sales | Pinball Machines Perth

    Agree with you on Space Invaders being one of the most influential 8-bit pioneers. This is a great project Raynsford has got there, but the fire risk is still way to high. Hope he can come up with some good solid improvements so that it’s still playable without being too risky.



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