My wife is curious.
"So what do you do with it?"
"It's a laser."
"Very powerful, and fits in your hand."
"So, you can use it giving presentations and stuff."
"Not really. The beam is so bright, you could hurt someone if it reflected into their eye."
"So what do you do with it?"
I am not a laser expert, unless you count watching Real Genius five times as any sort of real world schooling. Sure, I've done my fair share of field-testing with a magnifying glass and the sun, but tagging a massive green dot on a building from 100 yards away is a different beast entirely. I'm just a simple guy who wanted to hold what may be the most powerful consumer laser in the world - and burn something with it.
For those who haven't seen their ads, Wicked Lasers makes very powerful handheld lasers. Their newest model, the Spyder II, is what we're looking at today. It's the newest model they have to offer and among their most powerful, which justifies the hefty waistline. This Spyder II is much bigger than the pen-sized Nexus model I was using for comparison, more along the lines of a flashlight. In fact, it's the perfect size to hold with two hands for
lightsaber battles better grip. It looks dangerous, like a Mag-lite from the wrong side of the tracks and has excellent build quality with its anodized black aircraft-grade aluminum casing.
A texturized, rubber button on the back toggles the laser on and off, which proves to be a nice feature when you want to run the laser for an extended period of time. The spec sheet claimed 60 minutes of runtime from one of the two packaged rechargeable lithium ions.
The laser itself is sun bright. Seriously. I wore packed protective glasses for most of the testing, not only because of the danger of a directly reflected eye shot, but because looking into the laser's point of contact will leave spots in your eyes. While initially testing outdoors, the Spyder II was in no way intimidated by daylight, and appeared roughly 2-3 times brighter than the extremely bright Nexus model. (Note: for some reason while testing Spyder II, its laser stopped shooting brighter than the Nexus. I swapped the batteries, and still I don't know why, but I doubt that it's my imagination). In darker rooms, you can make out the beam of light, which almost sparks when contacting particles in the air. But enough with the glamour shots, you want to know how this bad boy performs.
Results: SUCCESSBraving the arctic winter that is my backyard fire pit, I shot a dried leaf from about 2 feet away. Within 5 seconds there was a tiny plume of smoke, though I could never start a fire. Maybe such is the nature of lasers - to char instead of burn.
With the balloon about 4 feet away, I turned the laser on and then reached over to the camera to record. It was too late because the balloon had already popped. Then...well, just watch the video.
Yes. That is my sissy hand.
I've been thinking of new materials to test for a week before my epiphany: a laser popping a kernel of popcorn. I imagined such a video distributed to the masses as families huddled around their computers and corporate execs referenced the image for small talk during power lunches. Unfortunately, while the lighting effect was striking as the shell enveloped the light, after 5 minutes there was still no delicious snack. I touched the kernel, and while part of the shell was warm, it was not burning hot.
"Did you try it on yourself?"
"Ok, I did."
"I knew you couldn't help it. And?"
This is just another day at the office for Gizmodo writers, risking life and limb for the Big Story. I didn't hold my hand long enough to smell charring flesh, but after about 7 seconds there was an odd sensation: not heat, but very light almost stinging feeling. The hand is fine, or it's red and filled with pus, so I'm not showing it here.
I enjoyed playing with the $1,700 Spyder II, and even as I type occasionally pick it up to watch a faint green beam of light shoot across the room. But I would probably never buy one for the reason that makes it great: the Spyder II is completely inappropriate for most purposes, sitting on a bubble between "gift for mom" and "seal the metal door shut before the Klingons get us" that my wallet can't justify. That being said, Wicked's newest laser is still an incredible product, and I can't wait to see what their next model can do.
Product Page [wicked lasers]