Lyra combines a handheld, retro-game emulator and a personal computer in one device
Lyra is a handheld games console with a twist. It doesn't come with any games, you put it together yourself (or pay a little extra for pre-built) and it can double as a personal computer and a Raspberry Pi experimentation platform. It's a quirky offering that could appeal to the classic console fan who loves to tinker.
Creoqode has a history of smashing a love of games, programming and tinkering together into a single idea, having successfully funded a number of Arduino-powered kit products for the cool geek about town. An open-source game console called 2048 with a 64 x 32 LED matrix screen, a DIY AI robot head called Nova, and a tiny 128 x 160-pixel DIY game console called Pyxa. The company also launched a hackable speaker kit designed to teach simple coding called Audx that seemed cool but failed to reach its crowdfunding goal.
Now the company has come up with Lyra, which has already passed its crowdfunding target. It's a different, perhaps more mature product that still maintains a certain appeal for tinkerers. This time, Creoqode has opted for Raspberry Pi as the platform (CM3 Lite) over Arduino and has limited the build-this-yourself aspect to a 15-minute assembly job that requires no soldering or special skills beyond being able to use a screwdriver and an Allen key.
London-based Creoqode claims Lyra can virtually emulate any game console of the classic era, making it possible to carry hundreds of them in your pocket. It would be good to see how well it does at this, considering the history of game emulation software and hardware. While the idea of a handheld, retro-game-emulating device isn't new, they've rarely been awesome. Looking at the promo video for Creoqode's Lyra, it seems the Raspberry Pi engine might more suited to the task than earlier Android-based attempts at the same kind of thing.
The problem with emulation systems is threefold. Firstly, you need to download games from somewhere in ROM (Read Only Memory) form and upload this to your device. Secondly, the ROMs aren't always great and quite a few don't work as expected. And thirdly, there's the legal aspect. While there are many great video game ROMs out there that are unlicensed (and therefore legal to own), a lot of games are still protected by the ESA and are illegal to distribute. So, as they say, caveat emptor.
The Lyra, however, is a little more than a portable gaming console. It can easily be plugged into your HDMI-enabled TV (with a couple of controllers) to enable some head-to-head gaming with your friends. But if reliving your sniggering-teen Duke Nukem obsession isn't enough, Creoqode has built in a little extra utility into the device. Attach a monitor and keyboard and use it as a computer to surf the web, or – if you're a tinkerer – access the Raspberry Pi CM3L through the exposed GPIO pads and create your own mad projects using up to eight sensors or external components.
Specs wise, the Lyra sports a Raspberry Pi CM3L, a 1.4-GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of (upgradable) SD Card storage, a 5-inch, 800 x 480-pixel TFT display, and a 3,000-mAh lithium-polymer battery. Audio is provided via the integrated speaker or a standard 3.5 mm audio jack, while video is supplied via DPI Interface and HDMI.
As you'd expect – or hope, for the less-technically confident among us – this elegant little device comes with a comprehensive tutorial series on the hardware, software and assembly, as well as instructions for installing your operating system of choice, and how to download and run video games. Just remember the legal aspects of ROM downloading.
The Lyra handheld game console, personal computer, entertainment system and tinkerer's plaything is available on Kickstarter, with pledges beginning at £149 (US$185) for the assemble-it-yourself version, or £179 (US$223) for the ready-to-go version. Worldwide shipping is available and the first orders are expected to begin around December this year.
Check out the promo video below to see Lyra in action.