Gaming
Sensor Vest

IoT Device that brings FPS to real life

Category

IoT

SERVICES

Electrical Engineering
Firmware Development
Prototyping
Unity Software

2021

The Challenge

The advent of first-person shooter (FPS) games was an important milestone in gaming history. It was present since the age of 2D games, with popular examples in both consoles and PC. However, FPS games really exploded with 3D multiplayer games, where the user can play in tridimensional environments with real-life people.

The exponential growth of multiplayer FPS games demonstrates a fact that most companies initially struggled to understand: gamers want to play with other people. Therefore, most of today’s gaming revenue is related to multiplayer online games, where users can not only be entertained, but also make friends and be part of a group.

But how take it one step further, and bring multiplayer games to the physical world? No off-the-shelf devices are widely available to cover this growing niche.

The OPPORTUNITY

AJProTech partnered with a venture-funded gaming startup from the Middle East to create a wearable IoT device and enable a new generation of immersive shooter games.

We’ve created a Sensor Vest - a wearable device that can digitize paintball / lasertag battles and bring real-life shooting data into computer games. With evolution of augmented reality (AR) applications and increased demand for haptic and tactile feedback, such a werable device may become the foundation for a completely new class of augmented reality games.

AJProTech led entire hardware development and firmware design to create functional prototypes of a wearable IoT system. Additionally, we’ve created a Windows application for Unity integration

gaming sensor gaming sensor

THE SOLUTION

We designed a simple and effective solution for immersive multiplayer augmented reality games. Players armed with toy guns wear a jacket-size vest with an array of impact sensors that detect bullet hits. Lightweight vests do not limit players movement and may adjsut to multiple sizes. Each vest is battery-powered and transmits hit data to central game computer through wireless WiFi connection with no latency.

Central computer is installed on a game field and collects data from all players. Windows application integrate hit information into Unity based shooter games. Game developers may send information back to the vest and display alive/dead status for each player and set team colors with multicolor LEDs on player shoulders.

MAIN FEATURES

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Wearable vest

Contains all components. Designed with simple design and inexpensive components.

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Wireless connectivity

Low latency WiFi connection. Up to 12 devices connect to host PC.

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32 impact sensors

Custom sensors detect mechanical impact from toy bullets. Sensor cover entire body.

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Electronics module

Control module processes sensor signals, transmits data to host PC through WiFi, and activates LEDs

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Windows application

Windows appllication parses WiFi data and integrates with Unity games.

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LED indicators

2 shoulder mounted LEDs display alive/dead status and teams colors

 

Our approach

Our client needed an inexpensive platform for continuous software tests and integration. We had a task to create a wireless wearable device that can be used in laser-tag and paintball-like games, support up to 10 players, a be fully customizable.

From inception of the project, we had to create custom components to achieve target performance. Project started with component research and validating critical assumptions in sensors and wireless connectivity.

We started with sensor research: which sensor type would be the most reliable, flexible, easily manufacturable. Next, we’ve compared multiple wireless protocols. Last, we’ve designed a form factor that is both versatile and manufacturable without expensive tooling.

We used Agile iterative approach and created functional prototypes with a few hardware design sprints in less than 5 months.

gaming sensor SENSORS gaming sensor SENSORS gaming sensor SENSORS

IMPACT SENSORS

Sensing impact from the toy bullets was a mission-critical function in this project. Sensors needed to cover the entire body, be lightweight and flexible, and be able to differentiate between bullet / ball hits and other impacts.

We’ve compared various solutions including accelerometers and piezo elements. Piezo elements were selected as most versatile. Piezo element is placed on a square sized plastic plates covering player’s chest and back. When a toy bullet hits the plate, the piezo element detects vibration; control module compares it with a threshold. This way controller can differentiate ball hits, light tapping, and mechanical impact of bouncing into objects or crawling.

We tested multiple configurations of sensors, selected optimal impact thresholds, and verify reliable sensor operation in game conditions.

gaming sensor wireless connection gaming sensor wireless connection

wIRELESS CONNECTIVITY

Reliable wireless connectivity is essential for IoT products. We needed to wirelessly connect up 10 players on a playground to a host computer located in the middle. Stable connection was an absolute priority. At the same time, we needed to achieve low latency data transfer: less than 10 milliseconds from a bullet hitting a vest and this event to be recorded in the software running on a host computer.

After testing different 2.4Ghz and 300-900 Mhz interfaces, Wi-Fi was chosen as the most versatile and suitable for the requirements.

gaming sensor hardware design gaming sensor hardware design

Hardware design

At AJProTech, we have a proven process designing Internet of Things (IoT) electronics hardware. Starting with system architecture, wireless connectivity, and components selection, we reliably produce future-proof IoT designs.

Control unit is built with two microcontrollers. 32bit Cortex-M4 MCU from ST Micro is responsible for sensor data acquisition, filtering, and battery management. Wireless interface is implemented with ESP-07 (ESP8266) WiFi module from Espressif systems. This amazingly priced module connects IoT device to a 802.11b/g/n wireless network.

Array of sensors is connected to a Control unit PCB. Individual sensor impact thresholds are easily configurable for each channel. We've optimized power consumption to achieve more than 10 hours of game on a single 3.7V Lithium ion 2000mA battery.

Hardware design included compact PCB layout with multiple analog and digital circuits. 4 layer PCB with dedicated ground planes ensures no signal interference.

gaming sensor firmware code gaming sensor firmware code

FIRMWARE DESIGN

We designed Embedded firmware for 32bit ARM Microcontroller with focus on low latency. Bare-metal firmware is written in C++ without using RTOS to provide fast response time. Microcontroller receives data from impact sensors, does filtering, and transmit it to a host computer through ESP8266 WiFi module.

  • We achieved almost instantaneous hit detection response time of less than 10 milliseconds including hardware and wireless delays
  • Power optimization techniques and optimal sensor polling time ensured long battery life
  • Implemented WiFi interface to a Windows application running on host PC
  • Created an API for a bidirectional WiFi protocol so that host computer can control status LEDs on a vest
 

SOFTWARE DESIGN

End goal for this project is to fully integrate physical lasertag-like shooting with a computer game. Possibilities are endless and limited only by game developers imagination.

To enable smooth integration into a variety of Unity-based shooter games, software engineers at AJProTech developed a driver and Windows application that covers all low-level routines for smooth integration into games:

  • Connect up to 10 vests
  • Scan WiFi network traffic
  • Receives hit information from each player
  • Imports data into Unity games
  • Provides a bidirectional interface between the game and the vest
  • Sets number of “lives” till player is considered “dead”
  • Controls status LEDs: alive/dead and team colors
gaming sensor firmware code gaming sensor firmware code

Product appearence

Mechanical engineers at AJProTech know that one of the most important features in any wearable device is comfort. Any inconvenience in the wearing process, undesired stiffness, or extra-weight can be decisive for user for user rejection, especially in the gaming application. Therefore, we developed a product that resembles a conventional paintball vest, which allows the user arms to freely move during the game, while also giving a military aesthetics to it.

The bright LED indicators on the sholders provides an easy way to display alive/dead status and player team colors.

PROTOTYPING
PROTOTYPING
PROTOTYPING

PROTOTYPING

AJProTech has an extensive expereince with low-volume prototyping for new products. We have in-house equipment to assemble and test prototypes, fast and efficient. With wide access to local and global manufacturers, we can create samples without significant investment in tooling and Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ).

For this project, we selected a textile vest design with hidden internal pockets for sensor plates. All elements and wires are hidded inside the vest while maintaining easy access to repair and maintenance. It was especially important during the bring up of prototypes and sensor calibration.

PCBAs were assembled on SMT line in under 2 weeks. In the meantime, we created cables and wire harnesses in-house, totalling over a thousand feet of wire.

HOW IT WORKS

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Impact sensors in the vest detect impact from a toy gun bullets and transmit it to Control unit
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Battery-powered Control unit analyzes an array of sensor data and filters false impacts
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Control unit sends data to the host PC through WiFi. Windows application import signals into Unity games
04.
Host computer controls LEDs on the vest to show alive/dead status and team color

What can we create together?

Work with us
 

Impact

We created functional prototypes to be used in continuous software development, alpha field tests, and fundraising.

Our partners received multiple angel and venture funding from Middle East investors for further game development.

Upon completion of softwate development, this IoT device will go into Design for Manufacturing phase.

impact gaming sensor

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Contact us

United States
Headquarters Los Angeles, CA 9410 Owensmouth Ave, Chatsworth, CA 91311
Taiwan
R&D and Manufacturing New Taipei City 120 Nan Shi St.  
Kazakhstan
Software design Almaty