A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Italy: Laser pointer used at Venice film festival to point out viewers without masks

A story about the Venice International Film Festival mentions that ushers in the theater were using lasers to point out persons who lowered their COVID masks in the dark, after the film had started:

"Mask-wearing was one of the most assiduously policed protocols; even mid-row offenders were publicly shamed by being immediately targeted with a red laser pointer, which must have felt like being in the sights of a sniper."

From the New York Times


This is an interesting practical use for laser pointers. Of course ushers should only use a low-powered "bullet" type pointer like those sold in pet stores, that take two or three hearing-aid style batteries. Care should be taken to avoid the eyes. If the beam from a small Class 2 (less than 1 milliwatt) laser accidentally goes into a person's eyes, there would be a bright flash but no injury or damage.

Poland: Scientific paper says laser toy is misclassified, 4x legally required power

A paper published online March 24 2021 describes a laser aiming device on a plastic toy rifle intended for children. It had a red laser and a blue LED. The paper does not state whether there is any type of required laser labeling on the device. However, no laser warning label or classification label is seen in the paper's only photo of the device:

Laser aimer sight toy rifle classification squashed

The paper examined the red laser's output and found it was 1.7 milliwatts. This is four times the Class 1 limit of <0.39 mW, and is 1.7 times the Class 2 limit of <1 mW. The laser should have been classified as Class 3R (<5 mW limit).

The author notes that according to the European standard EN 62115:2020, and guidance from Public Health England, laser toys should be Class 1. At four times the Class 1 limit, this toy's "radiation may be hazardous, especially when looking into the beam for long periods."

From Mlynczak, Jaroslaw. "Laser toys fail to comply with safety standards – case study based on laser product classification" Advanced Optical Technologies , no. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1515/aot-2020-0072


We do not dispute Mlynczak's technical findings. However, there are some misleading or false statements in the paper that we would like to address.

  • An erroneous title; it should be "Laser toy fails to comply…" The case study is not about "toys" plural. It covers only one sample of one toy rifle which had a laser aiming device that was found to be misclassified.
  • Stating that the toy laser's output power (1.7 mW) is illegal, when it may have been legal or close to legal (within 0.7 mW) at time of sale.
  • Calling the laser's light output "radiation" 14 times and never using the more precise term "light," thus giving a misleading impression the hazard might be similar to that of X-radiation or nuclear radiation.
  • Stating without any proof or reference that children "will usually try to look directly into the laser beam."
  • Stating without any proof or reference that children "could have temporary disturbances of vision… lead[ing] to a tragedy."
  • Stating without any proof or reference that there is such a thing as "hypersensitivity to laser radiation."
  • Stating without any proof or reference that "the described laser toy… [is] easily available and [is] still sold as toys in many European states."
  • Listing in the References studies claiming laser "toy" injuries, which actually were from standard, non-toy laser pointers.

Details are below:

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US: Student builds device to automatically shoot eyes with a laser pointer

A 19-year-old Northern Arizona University student posted a YouTube video showing a device he built that tracks a face, and aims a laser beam towards the eyes.

Michael Reeves’ tongue-in-cheek narration states “…it’s really doing its job of lasering me in the eye which is the real innovation here. To my pleasant surprise I found that this machine also solved another of society's problems; the fact that you're not seeing little tiny dots in your vision all day long. I know where to go when I wanted to see little dots, now I can't focus on anything.”

Michael Reeves laser pointer in eye 01
The inset photos show what the camera is seeing (left) and the red box indicating face detection (right)

The laser in the video looks substantially more powerful than the U.S. FDA limit of 5 milliwatts. (However, it can be difficult to estimate laser power from a video. For example, the camera may be more red-sensitive than human eyes which might explain why the beam seems so large and bright.)

Anyone doing this should be aware of the problem of laser pointers often being more powerful than the label states, and more powerful than the U.S. limit of 5 mW.

Fortunately for Reeves’ vision, the laser is mechanically aimed by two devices that move it left-right and up-down. This makes the aiming relatively slow and lagging the facial recognition, so the beam can be dodged much of the time. He moves to avoid the beam, and is hit in or very near to an eye about once every couple of seconds.

The screenshot below shows the camera (blue arrow) and a laser module mounted on two servos (yellow arrow).

Michael Reeves laser pointer in eye 02

As befits a student budget, the housing is an old pizza box. Reeves wrote the facial recognition and aiming program in C#, using Emgu CV, a .Net wrapper for the OpenCV computer vision library.

In about a day, the video received 80,000 views as well as being featured at tech blog The Verge.

From The Verge. Original YouTube video here.

UPDATED April 19 2017: Michael Reeves told C/Net “My eyes are fine. A lot of people seem concerned about that, which I admit is warranted. I used a 5 mW laser diode, and never had it in my vision for more than a fraction of a second."

US: College football team given 120 lasers to "make a point"

In a motivational tactic, 120 University of Houston football players were each given a laser pointer during a team meeting during the last week of October 2015. The lights went out, and Carl Lewis Auditorium was filled with 120 red lights, each pointed in a different direction. The coach, Tom Herman, then told the players to focus on a sign at the front of the room.

Herman was later quoted as saying “When you can see all these lasers everywhere, it just kind of represents everything that goes on in the lives of 18- to 22-year olds. We needed everybody to shut all that out and bring all that into one common focus.”

The tactic may have helped; the Houston Cougars went on to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 34-0 on October 31 2015.

From the Houston Chronicle and Examiner.com

Germany: Latest film-inspired laser shoots beams out of glasses

Laser hobbyist Patrick Priebe has fabricated a unique pair of glasses that emulates the X-Men comic book hero “Cyclops”. It emits two powerful Class 4 blue laser beams, as if they are coming from a person’s eyes. In addition, there are two low-powered red aiming beams.

The technique is to look in the desired direction with the red aiming beams on, then to switch on the blue beams while looking at the desired target. The glasses have a lens that attenuates blue laser light, so that the user is protected in case of any reflected blue beams.

Patrick Priebe X-Men Cyclops laser glasses
The two blue beams emitted from Priebe’s glasses, each roughly 1 watt, can burn cloth and pop balloons.

X-Men Cyclops

His inspiration: Cyclops’s 2-gigawatt “optic blast,” which is red in the Marvel comic books.

An online YouTube video shows Priebe’s laser glasses in action:

Due to the inherent danger of head-worn lasers, Priebe is not making additional glasses and he is not offering plans for others to build their own.

Priebe has previously built custom laser gadgets such as a replica of Iron Man’s palm-mounted repulsor ray projector, a laser “Gatling gun” with six rotating 1.4 watt blue beams, and a laser gun that emits a non-visible 1 megawatt pulse.

From Gizmodo. Original video posted by AnselmoFanZero.