SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Last year, it was Pokemon Go that had hordes of people running around cities and parks with their smartphones.
This year, another augmented reality game is about to burst onto the scene -- one that has teams of players battling each other in a sci-fi fight to the finish.
"Like the one you see in Counterstrike, Overwatch or Call of Duty," said Proxy42 CEO Francesco Ferozzino, "But this time, in real life."
Ferozzino said he's loved video games since he was a kid.
"I asked my father, 'Can i have another one? I just finished this one,' and he said no, no, no," he said -- so 11-year-old Francesco began learning to build video games of his own.
His new game, Father.IO, isn't about his dad, though, Francesco told us via Skype from his startup's office in Italy. It's the evil overlord of a world ruled by robots, in a sci-fi shooter game that gets players out of their chairs, and into the streets -- shooting invisible laser beams at opponents through their smartphones' cameras.
"We think it's much more social, we think it's much more healthy, and we think it's much more fun to play with your friends or even with strangers," Ferozzino said.
But building the game was harder than he anticipated. Smartphone cameras are hardly as accurate as the laser guns of the future, and could only find an opponent up to about 15 feet away. So Ferozzino made the decision to dive into the hardware business, raising money to build that futuristic laser gun with a crowd funding video that went global.
"I discovered that we were absolutely astonishingly famous in China," he said. "I don't know how we get there."
The video raised nearly half a million dollars on Indiegogo, and garnered a $2 million investment by Lenovo and Brookstone, among others. Brookstone now plans to manufacture and sell the device, called the "Inceptor," in its stores starting in December.
Capable of tagging opponents from 150 feet away, the Inceptor also changes colors to show what team a player is on. It will retail for $39, or $69 for a two-pack -- because, as Ferozzino puts it, Father.IO is meant to be a social experience.
"Meet new people, exercise and have fun at the same time," he said.
New game brings excitement of laser tag to your smartphone