This battery-free GameBoy runs on solar power, mechanical energy

Prototype design of the battery-free GameBoy

Nintendo’s original GameBoy was a monumental piece of gaming history, paving way to modern handheld consoles of today. While the Nintendo GameBoy was not necessarily the first of its kind, it offers enough novelty to set new meaning to handheld gaming.

However, as groundbreaking as the launch of the GameBoy was, it is not a perfect hardware. Even when touted as a “long-lasting” platform, the idea comes at the expense of four exhaustible AA batteries, and not the most economical as a portable gadget, especially back in the late ’80s.

An Experimental Project

Three decades later, a group of researchers at Northwestern University and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (TU Delft) is taking interest to redesign the iconic console. One with the goal of establishing the notion of sustainable gaming by relying on alternative energy sources instead of traditional batteries.

While rudimentary in design, which depicts a prototype model, the partnership project has come up with something substantial. From the outset, the project sees a similar form factor as the archetypal GameBoy, but with the obvious difference in physical elements.

One most notable disparity comes with the presence of energy-receiving panels and a drastically reduced display panel. Although obvious in its schematic to rely on solar energy as a source of power, there’s a surprising twist to it.

Energy Efficient

According to Josiah Hester of NU, “It’s the first battery-free interactive device that harvests energy from user actions. When you press a button, the device converts that energy into something that powers your gaming.”

Working alongside Hester are TU Delft’s Jasper de Winkel, Vito Kortbeek, and Przemyslaw Pawelczak. Altogether, they kickstarted a project which implements the concept of “energy-aware gaming platform” or ENGAGE.

Reliable System

Aside from recreating the handheld console to become more energy-efficient, part of the new design revolves around making a reliable platform, one that would significantly offset the major drawback of the original GameBoy. An issue that particularly arises during instances of sudden power loss.

In light of that, the researchers incorporated the use of non-volatile memory for storing system state. Which, in effect, provides an instant restoration from where the user left off in the offset chance that the console loses its power.

While the concept is neither new nor groundbreaking, it does present an auspicious schematic that could be a starting point of something great—a single forward step to an industry that is, at its core, overly reliant in energy.

Image used courtesy of ASM SIGCHI/YouTube Screenshot

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