Battery-free retro Game Boy runs on solar power and button mashing
Energy technology has come a long way since the first handheld gaming consoles emerged in the 70s and 80s. As a way of demonstrating these advances and where they might lead us in the future, a team of researchers has built a Game Boy that requires no battery, instead powering itself from a combination of solar energy and the user’s interactions with the device.
The self-sufficient gaming system was developed by scientists at Northwestern University in the US and TU Delft in the Netherlands, who set out to explore the limits of battery-free computing. The system features a processor that replicates that of a retro 8-bit Nintendo Game Boy and can play games from that console's original cartridges, which the team notes actually calls for a considerable amount of computational power and energy.
But instead of turning to a battery to provide continuous power, the team embedded solar panels around the edge of the screen that work in tandem with a capacitor-based system to harvest energy from the user's interactions with the device, as they press its buttons.
“It’s the first battery-free interactive device that harvests energy from user actions,” says Northwestern’s Josiah Hester, who co-led the research. “When you press a button, the device converts that energy into something that powers your gaming.”
The device is the same size and shape as an original Game Boy, and is able to quickly switch between these two power sources, but not without a short disruption to the gameplay.
The team says these interruptions last less than a second at the moment under typical gameplay conditions, which works for games like Tetris or Solitaire, but will need addressing for more action-heavy titles. On the plus side, the system is able to save the user’s progress the moment power is lost, allowing them to pick up where they left off even if Mario is in mid-air.
“Sustainable gaming will become a reality, and we made a major step in that direction – by getting rid of the battery completely,” says TU Delft’s Przemyslaw Pawelczak, who co-led the research with Hester. “With our platform, we want to make a statement that it is possible to make a sustainable gaming system that brings fun and joy to the user.”
You can hear from Hester in the video below.
Source: Northwestern University