Home > General > Paintball Radar: Birth of the ZephyrEye

Paintball Radar: Birth of the ZephyrEye


To my wife’s great chagrin, I like playing video games on occasion.  She equates it to the worst form of self-indulgence there is, and a complete waste of time, but it’s relaxing and I rarely (read: less often than not) let it interfere with things I’ve got to get done.  All said and done, I go through spurts where I’ll play for a few hours for a couple days in a row maybe once a month.

My favorite game is Battlefront.  Yes, the original – Upper management won’t approve expenditures on new video games so the ones I get are usually pretty old.  Woot to the stormtrooper.  Enough digression – One day I was playing and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have the enemy radar in real life?”  To which I responded casually to myself, “Heck yes, it would.”

So I made one.  Loosely based off of Halo and Battlefront radar, I designed one for the only acceptable (upper management required non-lethal) recreational war I could think of: Paintball!

I toyed around with the thought of actually making a product out of it for a while.  I didn’t because paintballers I talked with just weren’t willing to part with $200 for what they considered a gimmick.  But it did give me a reason to blow several hundred dollars on something my wife would marginally approve of.  It’s all about working the system (erm, I mean, I love you honey!).

So I came up with a fancy project name, ZephyrEye, drew up a quick concept screen, and wrote up some project specs.

Hardware Specs:

  • Color LCD screen
  • Should be able to monitor ammo levels by detecting shots fired using a microphone
  • Must be hardened to survive a direct blow
  • Uses GPS for localization
  • Uses ZigBee mesh networking modules for up to 1 mile transmissions
  • Must be reprogrammable via wireless bootloader.
  • Must use an AVR processor.
  • Battery must last at least an hour.

Software Specs:

  • Both friendly and opposing players can be identified by color and/or symbol.
  • Visibility of friendly/opposing players can be user selected per game.
  • “The Walking Dead” can be identified by color/symbol (so they don’t get shot again ;)
  • Players can be “respawned” by waiting in a neutral “base” zone for a timeout period after being shot.
  • Can keep score of different styles of games: Capture the Flag, Elimination, King of the Hill, etc.
  • Players can report being hit, which removes them from play and shows others their location as they withdraw.
  • Field objects (such as bunkers, bases, field boundaries, etc.) can be programmed in, saved, and restored.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but that’s more or less what I set out to create.  Here’s what I came up with using a cross-platform compatible and open source 3D rendering software called Blender, with a few post-processing effects using GiMP.  I’m really not an artist, but I think it gets the point across.  I’ve never actually integrated a ZephyrEye into a hopper, but I thought it would be cool.

I should also note that while I’ve really enjoyed my paintballing experiences (heck, I went paintballing for prom one year ;), I don’t own any equipment and I don’t go very often.  So, like almost all of my inventions, it’s a solution looking for a problem (bad Brad!).  But even Sir Mix-A-Lot can’t deny the coolness factor.  It’s there, baby.

Next: Schematics and design files.  Hopefully by the third or fourth post on this topic, I’ll have some videos of the functioning prototypes (cause I still don’t have any that look decent…).

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  1. 12 February 2010 at 3:02 PM

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