Adam Cohen of Milwaukee was playing with some spherical desk magnets at his desk one day when an idea struck him.

In high school, Cohen and his friends loved to play paintball in the
woods. It was fun, but there was one big problem. With all the players
covered in splatters of paint, “you never know if you hit the other
person,” Cohen said.

Drawing from his physics background, Cohen realized that magnets
would be an excellent solution. Tiny magnets just millimeters in size
could be inserted into foam weapons. They would then produce electrical
signals that could be recorded. This created an unambiguous, reliable
scoring system — an improvement over the honor system used in games
such as paintball. With that, MagneTag was born.

“MagneTag is a new gaming system platform that I invented that uses
magnets and magnet sensors as a basis for actually doing the tagging,”
Cohen explained. “Instead of something like laser tag where you just
point and shoot light at each other, you put magnets in projectiles.
It’s a way of keeping track of things!”

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“The most fun isn’t playing hardcore sports like paintball or
Airsoft. The most fun is little foam toys and duking it out with your
friends,” he added. Cohen hopes to incorporate darts, bows and arrows,
swords, and shields into MagneTag, making it more flexible than other

After coming up with the concept for MagneTag, Cohen went to work at a collaborative workshop to hone the design.

“It took me several years to make it work,” he admitted. But the
effort has paid off this year, when MagneTag became a semi-finalist in
the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Right now, MagneTag’s scoring system is fairly basic. Players wear
lights, which display different colors depending on how many times they
have been hit. Looking ahead, Cohen envisions an even more exciting and
complex set-up.

“Eventually, I want a whole system where you can score where you got
hit, with different point values and different game types,” he said.
Down the road, he also hopes to integrate the game into smart phones so
that players can obtain detailed information in real time.

MagneTag aims to appeal to all ages. To reach a larger group of
consumers, Cohen plans to design different “tiers” for the game. The
current design is “affordable enough for your everyday consumer –
something that you could buy at a Wal-Mart,” he explained. In the
making, though, is a multi-level version of MagneTag that amusement
complexes could rent out.

As the final touches are made to the product, Cohen stresses the
importance of being local. He brings MagneTag equipment to bars and lets
patrons try out the game. So far, the response has been quite positive.

“People are just like ‘Oh my god, where can I get this?’” he said.
Once the product is released, Cohen hopes local teams will begin forming
and planning competitions, which would build up MagneTag’s popularity.

However, Cohen doesn’t just want MagneTag’s hype to be built up in Wisconsin.

“I’m trying to do as much work as possible close to home, hiring
people in the community,” he explained. “Making things in America is
something I’m very big on.”

With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Cohen hopes to raise enough
money to soon begin placing MagneTag in the market for people in
Wisconsin and beyond to enjoy.

— By Catherine Turng, for . Turng is a senior in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.