The Game Boy was a true revelation when it launched back in 1989, and kickstarted a portable gaming industry which endures to this very day. However, it also meant that players had to have a steady supply of AA batteries to hand if they wanted to make the most of the console, and while we've since moved to rechargeable power cells in systems like the 3DS and Switch, there's always the issue of running out of juice at the wrong time.
Delft University of Technology's Jasper de Winkel has taken a step towards removing that limitation by creating a Game Boy-style system which doesn't need batteries to function, and he hopes it could pave the way for future technology. Working with Josiah Hester from Northwestern University in the US and Przemysław Pawełczak and Vito Kortbeek from TU Delft, de Winkel's "Engage" project (no relation to Nokia's failed gaming smartphone, we should add) is seen as a proof of concept to show that a battery-free handheld is possible.
The 3D-printed system isn't an exact match for Nintendo's iconic handheld – it's thicker for starters, and its screen is much smaller than the one on the original console. It's also using emulation rather than authentic internal parts, but it can play original Game Boy cartridges. There's also no sound whatsoever, as this would draw too much additional power.
It derives its power from an array of solar panels fixed to the body, as well as kinetic energy from the user pressing the buttons and D-Pad. The system is based on "Intermittent computing", a new energy-harvesting technique that supplies small amounts of power rather than the "always-on" nature of traditional batteries. There's a pretty huge catch, however – this newfangled setup can only keep the device active for around 10 seconds, which isn't going to give you much gaming time. However, the team have come up with a way of 'checkpointing' your progress which means when the power is restored, you pick up from where you left off. The challenge now is to take the technology to the point where running out of power and having it restored is instantaneous, so the user doesn't even notice.
This might all sound like a bit of a bust, but the Engage isn't meant for public consumption. It's a system designed to get people thinking about what future portable tech could look like. We throw away millions of devices each year because their internal rechargeable batteries have failed and they cannot be replaced easily, but what if you had a device which had a power source that could be restored by leaving it in direct sunlight or simply playing it?
While the Engage isn't going to be ready for retail any time soon, it's an exciting new direction that consumer electronics could potentially take.
Makes you go blind. You feel deaf. Looks crap. Well, Iron Man's first suit wasn't perfect after all, will wait for Mk7.
Sounds cool but it is not.
10s total or 10s between button presses ?
Lots of applications once they get more people investing time and energy into making it more efficient and cost effective over time. Nice proof of concept!
Yeah cool concept but to be honest we will NEVER get a new nintendo console utilizing this tech. I think that it's more likely we switch to solar energy before using something like this yet calling it the "future of gaming" Is a bit misleading. Although I still enjoyed the article, the amount of energy to run a ds for example would simply be impossible no matter how far this tech comes the energy simply is not there. Know imagine what they are saying that somehow the energy will multiply thousand fold for the new nintendo _ in 2___ it just does not make scientific sense. Although I must say that the solar gameboy are definitely still cool, even if they aren't the future.
@Lordplops if only this were like the movies...
The screen is tiny, I doubt i could read it properly.
Also on the video it shows that when it runs out of battery the screen goes off, then comes back on again once enough power is harvested? Damn that would be annoying
A solar-powered Game Boy makes an unhealthy amount of sense to me.
Also, who needs sound when you're out and about? It's not like you hear much when you're outside of a room.
Why the hell would anyone want a tiny screen and no sound? That's not a catch. It's a joke.
Nintendo could release a small portable device that only plays Warioware.
Cool little project, but 10 seconds is about what it took for me to write this.
then what is the point?
I read up a while back about new tech where they can use magnets and WiFi to power smart phones. I see that and solar power as the future.
Interesting! As the article says it's not meant for public consumption but the fact that it functions at all can be seen as a landmark towards better energy usage. I find the idea of the machine being able to harness kinetic energy from mere button presses fascinating.
Been training on the GBA Micro screen for years, I feel ready to play on this.
@PlayedNSlayed The answer is right there in the article:
"This might all sound like a bit of a bust, but the Engage isn't meant for public consumption. It's a system designed to get people thinking about what future portable tech could look like."
You have to start somewhere.
Surprised by the amount of negative comments to this. I think it's pretty cool.
What if the solar panels were larger, and completely covering the device? Or maybe they could implement a wind-up feature on the back somehow, hah.
Bunch of bummers above. The intent seems clear to me. Intermittent computing seems awesome, for instance for low-power devices like LoraWAN nodes. The gameboy is obviously a novelty. But it's working, because this gaming site is reporting about it. Had they made a 'tech'y device, no one would write about it!
It's a proof of concept, not Nintendo's shadow-dropped Christmas announcement. Calm down, everyone.
I think it's neat.
Launch title better be Boktai
My solar powered new 3ds xl is way better than that. All you need is a 5V solar panel that are used for changing your smartphone with. Plus a USB cable with the 3ds plug on the other end.
The GB Boy Colour wipes its behind with this thing
Seriously? GameBoy Color runs 30 hours on 2 standard batteries and its screen draws next to no power due to the lack of backlight. It would run easily with modern solar panels alone. You want me to prove it? Challenge accepted. Just let me have some more fun with my last 50% turbo mod, battery free version will be next.
"We throw away millions of devices each year because their internal rechargeable batteries have failed and they cannot be replaced easily." Here's a crazy idea. Make the batteries easily replaceable.
Not there yet. Just wait until we get mini versions of those mythical Tesla rods, or until we're dead because we didn't go green fast enough. Interesting outcome either way.
why did they make the screen smaller?
“It’s a proof of concept”.. a proof that it’s meaningless and not ready for any practical use.
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