About Ron Burkey
At a Glance
Laser Trek is high price-tag system for the entertainment industry.
Hardware: Altogether there are approximately 20 distinct printed
circuit boards used in the system, of which I completely designed about
a dozen, and I designed at least one version of about half of the remaining
Software: I provided the complete firmware and software design for
3 CPUs -- a large but unknown quantity of C and
8051 assembly-language code.
Documentation: 150 pages for regulatory and tracking purposes, plus
an unknown quantity of less-product-specific
Effort: About 2 years of my time.
Laser Trek is a "laser tag" type of game system, suitable for
installation in theme parks or high-end family entertainment centers.
Heads Up Technologies manufactures all of the equipment for this game (other
than some off-the-shelf items such as audio amplifiers or speakers) and
the software for it, as well as offering arena-design and installation
services. The typical system price is in the range $100K-200K.
There are (or have been) Laser Trek installations in Japan, Thailand, Canada,
and at various locations in the United States, including sites at Six Flags
and Sea World.
What is Laser Trek?
Laser Trek is a game which takes place in a futuristic "arena", and consists
of the following components:
A "game computer" (generally a Pentium PC) which is a central controller
and information-collection point for the system.
Vests and battery-powered laser guns. A typical number of guns would
be 20. The player wears the vest and carries (and fires) the gun.
Targets within the arena. A typical number of targets would be 5.
Additional special effects or pieces of scenery, such as the arch filled
with lightning bolts seen below.
A "network" that loosely couples together the game computer, vests/guns,
What did I do for Laser Trek? I did not design the attractive
sets and plastic seen in the accompanying photos, but I performed virtually
all of the remaining technical design (as opposed to integration) work
in this system. The architecture of the system is entirely my work.
Technically, the most interesting elements of the Laser Trek
system are these:
The guns & vests. The gun/vest is based on a Siemens 80C537
microcontroller. The gun/vest is battery powered, with its NiCad
batteries being recharged between games by a custom (i.e., Heads-Up supplied)
recharger. The gun/vest has a laser, infrared emitters & sensors,
an RF transceiver, an LCD screen, numerous individually-controllable lights,
and audio-playback capability. Firmware and audio data are contained
in flash-memory, which can be reprogrammed in the field without opening
the unit. The firmware was written in C and in 8051 assembly-language.
The "fx controllers" (targets). A device somewhat similar
to the gun/vests, but for controlling the targets within the arena.
Though similar, it has completely different hardware and firmware from
The "game computer". The game computer is an off-the-shelf
(usually Pentium-based) PC, running the Laser Trek software under MS-DOS.
It provides very flexible means of controlling the other elements of the
system, receiving status information from the guns and targets in real
time, collecting scoring data, scripting actions such as playback of audio
(WAVE) files and/or CDs, and printing scorecards. Its software is
written entirely in C.
The "lighting controllers". This is an 8051-based device which
can control a large number (>100) of outputs with millisecond timing-resolution.
It is used for creating a number of miscellaneous stand-alone special effects
involving sequencing of lights and/or playback of audio. Its firmware
is written in 8051 assembly language.
This page was last modified by RSB on 04/20/02.