Modders turn the NES’ lightgun into a real laser weapon

Zapper laser

If there was ever one fatal flaw with the Zapper lightgun peripheral that Nintendo created for its first foray into the home console market, it’s that the thing couldn’t actually zap anything that wasn’t generated on your television screen. Erratically flying ducks and those oddly blocky goons from Hogan’s Alley offered little challenge for the “gun,” but what about home intruders? Or local wildlife? Or your annoying little brother?

Now, thanks to the efforts of the designers at Virginia’s North Street Labs, the Zapper is equally at home playing Duck Hunt or attempting to flash-fry actual, living ducks. The group popped open one of the iconic lightguns and noticing that it’s mostly empty space, decided to insert what they describe as a “ridiculously powerful laser.” Interestingly, the project (which is detailed in full on the North Street Labs blog), was easier than imagined. The Zapper’s stock electrical switch was built to withstand far more power than the gun would ever actually need during standard gaming, and despite the addition of a 445nm laser diode capable of firing a 2+ watt beam (for reference, the blog claims that this is roughly “400 times more powerful than a regular laser pointer”) the gun functioned almost exactly as intended with a minimum of major hardware alterations.

The result is a “laser gun” that functions exactly as your childhood of watching sci-fi cartoons would dictate. Pull the trigger and you generate a short-lived, yet powerful laser beam. Hold the trigger and the beam will continue to fire in one continuous stream until either you release your grip or the device runs out of power. Helpfully, the final version of the mod includes an on-board battery pack, so unlike the Zapper of old, this more dangerous version is completely portable.

Once complete, the team at North Street Labs decided to test out the Zapper and it performed even better than they’d expected. “After initial testing, this thing is absolutely terrifying,” the blog states. “I discovered that my laser meter tops out at 2W… which this Zapper rapidly passes. The meter quickly shoots to 1800+ , then just says “1” when topped out. This means the Zapper is AT LEAST 2W OUTPUT. I wear my laser goggles at all times when handling this thing and only turn the key right before use.”

If you’d like to watch the finished Zapper in action, its creators have uploaded a video of the hack to YouTube, which you can find embedded below. Alternately, if you’re interested in making your own, the picture-rich walkthrough on the North Street Labs blog should help make that possible. But please, before you embark on this, or any other potentially dangerous project, make sure that you follow strict safety guidelines. The blog reminds us repeatedly to wear eye protection and to never point the Zapper at any living thing, and after watching a familiar gaming peripheral instantly ignite bits of wood and carve away chunks of metal that seems like pretty solid advice.

Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.