An ultra-powerful handheld laser that looks like a lightsaber from Star Wars can cause permanent eye damage and even set skin ablaze, according to its manufacturer, Wicked Lasers.
"There really is no need for an individual private citizen to use [this laser] because it is way too powerful and unsafe," said Gus Anibarro, education director of the Laser Institute of America in Orlando, Florida.
Called the Spyder III Pro Arctic, its beam is 4,000 percent brighter than Wicked Lasers' next most-intense laser, the $2000 Sonar II Burner, yet the new device costs only $200.
The Arctic is listed as Class 4, or the most dangerous class of laser. It is derived from a home theater projector and packs a full watt (W) into its sleek confines. "That’s an awful lot of power," said Anibarro, and he noted that this laser "could injure someone a mile away."
On its Web site, the company advised that the Arctic "possesses the most burning capabilities of any portable laser in existence."
A large warning message at the bottom of the product description page goes further, saying that "Extremely dangerous is an understatement to 1W of laser power. At close range, this Class 4 beam will cause immediate and irreversable [sic] retinal damage. Use with extreme caution and use only when wearing proper safety goggles."
This language appears to have been diluted since last week, when DailyTech reported that the warning said the laser "will blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts."
As for due diligence safety-wise on Wicked Lasers' part, the company said on its Web site that anyone buying an Arctic torch "will be required to completely read and agree to our Class 4 Laser Hazard Acknowledgment Form." A pair of safety goggles also comes gratis with any order of the Arctic.
In addition, the Web site offers tips to guard against the hazards of laser pointers and has posted the pictures of two people supposedly arrested for shining lasers at airplanes.
On a warning sticker, Wicked Lasers said its product complies with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) performance standards.
However, the foreign company has gotten the FDA's attention before regarding the safety of its products, Anibarro told TechNewsDaily. "The FDA has said that the company's claims about these products being laser pointers are false . . . they exceed the safe limits of what a real pointer would be," Anibarro said.
The Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the FDA arm that deals with laser safety, has sent cease-and-desist letters to Wicked Lasers in the past about certain products, Anibarro noted, but apparently with little effect.
The FDA stated last year that laser pointers have become increasingly popular as toys, with parents buying them so their kids can pretend to be science fiction characters.
The design of the Spyder III Pro Arctic – which clearly calls to mind a blue lightsaber like that wielded by Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi as well as the Skywalkers at times – might be meant to cash in on this sci-fi familiarity, though with an adult demographic.
Regardless of who uses the Arctic, Anibarro warned that this laser "is definitely not a toy."