This Game Player Never Needs Batteries

It just keeps on going!

Oct 1, 2020

Nintendo’s Gameboy came out in 1989 and was an instant success. Kids could keep themselves entertained on car trips, plane rides, or any boring places they had to go for as long as the batteries lasted. Now a new hand-held video game console was created that never needs batteries and could go on playing and playing, and playing.

This Gameboy, developed by researchers at Northwestern University and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands is not a toy according to a Northwestern news release It is a battery-free device that runs on solar power and the taps of the user. This could potentially allow gaming to last forever.

“It’s the first battery-free interactive device that harvests energy from user actions,” said Northwestern’s Josiah Hester, who co-led the research and is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “When you press a button, the device converts that energy into something that powers your gaming,” he said.

This energy aware gaming platform (ENGAGE) is the size of the original Game Boy and is equipped with solar panels around the screen and it acts like a Game Boy too. In fact, it can use old Game Boy cartridges like Super Mario Land and Tetris.

“We're impersonating the Game Boy,” Hester told CNET. “This could not have been possible even four or five years ago.”

The researchers presented their new game console on September 15, 2020 at UbiComp 2020, a conference for the interactive computing field, which is an emerging field of computer science and engineering.

Right now, ENGAGE is a work in-progress according to the news release. When the device switches between power sources there is a short pause, something that would drive gamers nuts but everything is automatically saved so the player doesn’t lose their place, “even if Mario is in mid-Jump,” said Northwestern.

On a cloudy day, taps give about 10 seconds of gameplay so there is still a long way to go before game consoles can truly go battery-free but the researchers hope that their device will raise awareness of the environmental hazards of batteries.

“Sustainable gaming will become a reality, and we made a major step in that direction — by getting rid of the battery completely,” said TU Delft’s Przemyslaw Pawelczak, who co-led the research and is an assistant professor in the Embedded Software Lab at TU Delft.

His co-leader agreed and said, “Our work is the antithesis of the Internet of Things, which has many devices with batteries in them. Those batteries eventually end up in the garbage. If they aren’t fully discharged, they can become hazardous. They are hard to recycle. We want to build devices that are more sustainable and can last for decades.”

Someday, many of our electronic devices will be solar powered or  self-powered. Cell phones will not have to be charged and lap tops will be able to be used anywhere without having to search for an outlet. Of course, an endless Game Boy chirping away on road trips could drive parents to distraction.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.