When you suit up for battle at Lazer Park, you take on more than your colleagues. You take on sophisticated hardware that engages in a real-time conversation with a central computer. From the warrior's perspective, laser-tag technology is mercifully simple. But here's how the technology really works.
The critical pieces of equipment are the phaser and the vest. The phaser fires laser light that contains coded information about the shooter. A cable links the phaser to a radio transceiver in the player's vest, which also contains a computer chip and an infrared sensor.
When a beam of laser light strikes the vest, the sensor decodes the information sent by the assailant's phaser, and the radio transceiver emits a signal that tells a Pentium-based PC who fired the shot - and who was hit. The computer instantly updates the score and flashes both individual and team tallies on monitors posted near each team's recharging station.
The laser light, in case you were wondering, is completely harmless.
Coordinates: Lazer Park, 212-398-3060, http://www.lazerpark.com
A version of this article appeared in the August 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.