Retro Game Boy that runs on solar power and button presses

The self-contained set-top box was developed to test the limits of battery-free computing.

Energy technology has advanced significantly since the first handheld game consoles in the 70s and 80s. To showcase these advances and show us where they might lead us in the future, a team of researchers designed the Game Boy, which uses a combined power source instead of batteries: solar power and user interaction with the device.

A self-contained gaming system was developed by scientists from Northwestern University in the United States and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who set out to explore the limits of batteryless computing. The system is equipped with a replica of the processor that was used in the original 8-bit retro Nintendo Game Boy. The device can play games from the original console cartridges, which, according to the team’s observations, requires significant computing power and a lot of energy.

Instead of providing continuous power from batteries, the team built solar panels around the edges of the screen. The panels work in tandem with a capacitor system that draws energy from the user’s interaction with the device: when he presses the buttons.

A self-contained gaming system developed by scientists from Northwestern University in the United States and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

“This is the first interactive device that draws energy from user input,” says Josiah Hestern of Northwestern University, one of the study’s leaders. “When you press a button, the device converts energy to keep you playing.”

The device is similar in size and shape to the original Game Boy. It can quickly switch between two energy sources, but the gameplay is interrupted for a short time.

According to the developers, these breaks now last less than a second in typical gameplay conditions for Tetris or Solitaire games. The problem will require a solution for more active games. The positive side: the system is able to save the progress of the user at the moment when the power disappears, allowing you to continue from where you stopped. Even if Mario froze in a jump in the air.

“Green games will become a reality. We took an important step in this direction by removing the entire battery, ”notes Przemyslav Pavelczak from Delft University of Technology, another project manager. “With our platform, we want to state that it is possible to create an environmentally friendly gaming system that brings fun and joy to the user.”

Listen to Hester’s story below.

Read more about the project here


Afterword of the translator

The “eternal” Game Boy can be the prototype of “indestructible” work tools for firefighters or tourists. It should be noted that accessories for charging from the sun have already been released for the original Nintendo gaming device. For example, Game Boy Solar Charger

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