Make your own $1 million vomit-inducing flashlight for $250

Lady Ada and Phil Torrone made a $250 working replica of the Dazzler, a $1 million non-lethal puke flashlight developed at the request of the US Dept. of Homeland Security. The link below includes complete instructions for making one of your own.

Bedazzler DIY non-lethal weaponry


  1. A couple of years ago I came across a little LED blinky toy that was supposed to be a sort of persistence of vision wand, waving it back and forth produced rainbow effects. I didn’t know this, and made the mistake of looking directly at the light while holding the button down. A few seconds was enough to leave me nauseous, and the effect lasted for a couple of hours. Perhaps I should have bought up their stock and sold them to the government?

  2. I’m not sure how effective it would be on me. I have nystagmus and pulsed light does weird things. If anything it’ll play some with my equilibrium if I’m moving, but it more makes my eyes move in tune to the pulse. (Which is fairly distracting when tube florescent lights are starting to die.)

  3. Okay, I got sick just watching the video — maybe I’m just suggestible. I am the kind of person who can’t play FPS games or see 3-D movies, either, so your mileage may vary.

  4. Wouldn’t this be gauranteed to cause a seizure in epileptics? Epilepsy isn’t an uncommon disease and seizures can be lethal. I’m sure the video doesn’t do it justice, but it doesn’t seem much worse than a strobe light or a cop pointing a bright flash light in your eyes (which, with the blind spots and over-stimulation, is itself quite disorienting).

    On a side note, isn’t the whole idea of a patent that you share the information publicly but get temporary exclusive access to use that information? This leaves ladyada, and anybody who builds this project, infringing upon this patent. This is where the difference comes between copyright and patent. She made her own design on the same principle without copying the exact circuitry, so it’s not a copyright violation, but since the principle idea was patented, it is a patent violation.

  5. So it doesn’t work.

    Wow. Lame. They patented a bunch of flashing LED’s. For a million dollar government contract.

    Poor Lady Ada and PT! What a letdown.

  6. Reveng @5 – it’s cute how you wax legal on the difference between patent and copyright law, but completely miss the point-

    You can’t violate a patent unless you’re selling something. All Lady Ada is doing is giving you instructions on how to make your own, which, as you pointed out, is what the patent application does anyway.

    Thanks for the warning, though!

  7. I wonder how much trouble otherwise-peaceful protesters would be in for building, having, and using their own homebrew non lethal weapons. So protesters can get some industrial headphones to diminish the effect of the sound cannon, but what about taking it out of commission with a home built focused EMP? Or shining vomit-flashlights at the cops? I mean, they’ll all be arrested instantly, of course, but it seems like making a bunch of cops vomit everywhere would be better than throwing moltov cocktails or rocks or whatever.

  8. KNODI:

    U.S. Patent law has no requirement that the item be sold. “Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States, or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.” All you have to do is make something covered by a patent to violate it.

  9. This demonstrates the necessity of R&D funding. Regardless of how cheaply it can eventually be made, somewhere in that 7-figure price tag is the research needed to, say, know the brightness and frequency needed to induce maximum nausea. In some way, someone could use this information to help another field of research…optometry, neurology, etc.

    This is why I support NASA. Do the impossible, and wonderful things come from it.

  10. If they have a “Copyright” they could stop people from making them, even if they didn’t try to sell them. Patents are merely commercial “I call Dibs!” issues.

    However, while it’s “Pokemon” bait, “We now Return you to Battling Seizure Robots!” I wouldn’t bet my life that I could subdue someone with it. Through the vid (doubtless filtered by Mpeg-4) did have an effect I’m still munching away.

    But I think this “Defense Contractor” just grabbed the money and ran like a bunny at a fursuit lifestyler convention… And then some petty officials will go “You WILL!” and make police use them, prompting both amusing and deadly incidents along with “Torture” lawsuits when they flash an epileptic…

  11. Keneke, indeed it is great that DHS SBIR grants discovered the Brücke-Bartley phenomenon by funding Ernst Wilhelm Ritter von Brücke back in the 1800’s ;)

  12. Like Keneke says, it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that Lady Ada replicated a $1 million project for “only” $250.

    I don’t think it was ever suggested that the physical flashlight itself, or even the circuitry, cost $1 million to make. You can build a lightbulb for pennies, but it cost more than that to invent it.

    @7 Siamang:

    So it doesn’t work.

    Wow. Lame. They patented a bunch of flashing LED’s. For a million dollar government contract.

    No, Lady Ada’s version didn’t work.

  13. Man, there is nothing worse than having to explain a joke…

    The incapacitator does not cause vomiting (except it rare situations) What happens is that the flashing occurs at a special frequency and at a color that our eyes are particularly responsive to (these effects were discovered over 100 yrs ago)

    The bedazzler works just fine, probably as well as the ‘official’ product, because all it needs to do is be really fucking bright.

    And don’t worry kids, watching a video about how to build something will not get you in trouble with the big bad patent police. Leave the scary stuff to us, we’re professionals!

  14. “…we have an Arduino clone here which I use to basically control the pulse width modulation, randomization, and mood selection” LOL

  15. I’ve been to so many Pink Floyd concerts that none of this flashing lights and loud sound stuff has no effect on me!!!

    So if the person who is being annoyed by the loud sound and flashing lights wears mirror glasses and ear muffs these gadgets are useless.

    Hand me my spud tossing trebuchet.

  16. i once did volunteer work for a festival, and I was washing the dishes. They had a floresent light bulb which was nearing the end of its life, and kept on flickering. It made me want to vomit, in the end I had to turn it off….

  17. Ok, does anyone else feel the uncanny resemblance to a bad science-fiction novel? “Sea-sickness machine?” If our leaders are interested in tapping into these kinds of reactions, we’re screwed. There is no turning back from here.

  18. did anyone get that line “my eyes, the goggles do nothing” or just me?

    i know no one cares, its from the Simpsons episode when mill house is cast as fallout boy in the radioactive man movie, and its the acid scene and millhouse doesn’t show up. i always loved that line

  19. That reminds me–have they perfected the “brown note” nonlethal device yet? ‘Cause that’s when I stop going to protests.

  20. It always surprises me how wowed people get by a price tag like a million dollars. As a government contract goes, that’s pretty small. It basically pays the salaries of a very small group of contractors (2-4 people) for a year, say. In that time they prototype things, go over the existing research, do some human subjects research to test out their prototypes, document, publish. Small team, one year, all quite reasonable. That you come out with something that can be made cheaply after all the research is great, but it doesn’t mean the original million dollar investment was unnecessary.

    This, of course, is the whole point of a patent – the guys who did the research should get to benefit from it for a while. Which is blatantly being infringed here … right? … or did I miss something?

  21. @ ladyada

    the end of the film suggests that the device does not work. i don’t think this is what you mean, but it’s ambiguous. maybe an edit could be helpful for future viewers.

  22. If the original device does work, then Michael Moorcock though of it first. It’s the Hallucinomat in “The Final Programme.” Anyone up for reverse-engineering Jerry Cornelius’s needle gun?

  23. maybe the million dollars of research produced a version that actually works… the open version seemed like it was a failure according to what they themselves said.

  24. Just seeing that smug grin on the DHS representative makes me nauseous, no need for a flashing light.

    “Non-lethal weapons are really pretty critically important.”

    Really? Seems like cops did just fine apprehending suspects by hand before the taser was invented. But hey, if you can put someone else in excruciating pain for a while and save yourself some effort in the process, why not?

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