Button mashers of the world, rejoice! For there is now a handheld gaming system that rewards your sloppy—yet occasionally effective—technique. It’s dubbed “Engage,” and it’s essentially an 8-bit Nintendo Game Boy clone; one that runs on solar power and energy generated from pressing buttons during gameplay.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands built the Engage. The system is able to run games like Super Mario Land and Tetris without the use of any batteries. And, thanks to its use of capacitors, the Engage is also able to recharge millions of times over.
“It’s the first battery-free interactive device that harvests energy from user actions,” Engage co-inventor, Josiah Hester, said in a Northwestern press release. The Engage runs off power gathered by solar panels, as well as the energy generated from pressing the gaming buttons. (Each button contains a magnet that moves through a wire coil when pressed or released, and the subsequent change in the magnetic field around the coil generates electrical energy.)
Hester et al. outlined the workings of the Engage in a recently published paper. In the paper, which comes via Science News, the researchers say they designed the system for continuous play despite frequent power failures. The Engage is able to do this thanks to a new technique for storing the system’s computational state in non-volatile memory. This means games don’t have to be saved; instead, players continue gameplay from the exact point where the system last lost power.
The researchers say the goal of the Engage is to help promote sustainable gaming systems. They also say they’d ultimately like to develop battery-free computing to reduce society’s reliance on batteries. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s still a long way to go. While it does have an indefinite lifespan, the Engage still only allows for 10 seconds of gameplay at a time. The system’s also unable to play games like Pokémon, which involve much less button mashing.
What do you think about this battery-free Game Boy? Do you think we’re looking at the future of handheld consoles here? Let’s talk renewable gaming in the comments, people!
Feature Image: Northwestern University