David Lynch explains where his idea for foam swords with electronic scoring came from.

DIARY OF AN INVENTOR: David Lynch and Sabertron

Five years ago I was watching my pre-teen boys play videogame after videogame. They were glued to the couch. Wanting to get them off the couch and outside, I went into my garage and made swords out of black foam and PVC pipes. I then brought my boys outside for some good, old-fashioned homemade swordplay.

It was a lot of fun except for one thing, they lost interest because you couldn’t figure out who won. There was a lot of arguing and many claims of “I hit you” and “no you didn’t.”

That’s when I had the idea. What if I could make foam swords that keep score. I’m a computer engineer by trade, so thought to myself, I bet I could get these swords to keep score electronically.

From that day forward, I was determined to make it happen, but it wasn’t easy. I tinkered in my garage but couldn’t get it to work so I eventually gave up. But I never really gave up completely. I kept thinking there had to be a way to make it work and kept searching for the answer. I searched the Internet for other people who’d done something similar, and all I could find information on was fencing.

Five years later, I was driving down the road, and it hit me. I was overthinking the whole thing. My original plan focused on a complicated proximity detection scheme or another option that used the swordsman’s body as a data conduit, but both of those ideas were too complicated and not even invented yet. So I simplified it and thought, this just might work.

Once I figured it out, I got a couple of Ardruino development kits and plugged them into a couple of wireless chips. After testing them out a few times I realised, ‘Wow, this actually is going to work’.

I asked my friend Tim Reichard to join my quest, to give us a web presence and to help with logistics in his spare time while I continued to work on the swords. I then built the first two Sabertron prototypes out of PVC and foam, just like the versions from the backyard. However, after playing for just a few moments, Tim and I realised that wouldn’t work even for prototype testing. They were way too heavy, weighing about a couple of pounds each.

We made the decision to switch to off-the-shelf foam swords. I put sensors into the sword handles and put the Arduinos in a fanny pack with the health meter on my chest and back. Finally, we played the first game of Sabertron, and it was a lot of fun. But the system was bulky and still not good enough to demonstrate the idea well.

I proceeded to build new prototypes that utilise 3D printing. I found a mechanical engineer on Elance to develop the 3D model of the handle. I then wrapped this model in LED light strips to act like a health meter. Around this time, Joe Mandy joined the team and set out to help with our social media presence.

Then, on the week before Christmas, the company where I worked ran out of funding and went out of business. I was laid off without severance along with 125 employees.

Needing to figure out what to do next, I decided to go all in with Sabertron. I quickly realised that no one would be doing any hiring until well into the new year, so I went full-time on Sabertron and got the prototypes ready to launch by late January.

Our first Kickstarter campaign was a smashing success. Well, except, it didn’t meet the funding goal.

Our goal was to raise $195,000, and we raised $55,527. But the experience was priceless and helped us gain exposure and make some great connections. I kept working to improve the prototypes and to get ready for a Kickstarter relaunch.

I’m really excited about our current project on Kickstarter and can’t wait to bring Sabertron to life for kids and grown-up kids everywhere. You really can’t understand how much fun it is to fight with foam swords until you play with them yourself, and it’s impossible to play without a smile on your face.

We also have some big things planned, including a melee mode that will allow more than two players to play at a time, accessories for Sabertron, and a bunch more ideas for connected game play.

To learn more, you visit our Kickstarter campaign page or watch our launch video below.

If you are a toy inventor or designer and you’d like to share your story, email us at Blangsworthy@newbaymedia.com.

About dt-admin

Check Also

UK kids brand combining organic chocolate and sustainable puzzles grows business after funding success

The UK ethical toy and confectionery brand, PlayIn Choc, has surpassed its crowdfunding goal of …