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Video A Credit Card-Sized, Arduino-Based Game Device (Video) 33

Slashdot's Tim Lord was cruising the halls at OSCON, where he spotted Kevin Bates and his tiny Arduino-based device, called the Arduboy. On Kevin's Tindie.com sales page, he says the games it can run include, "Space Rocks, Snake, Flappy Ball, Chess, Breakout, and many more...The most exciting one could be made by you!" || His work with Arduboy got Kevin invited to the recent White House Maker Faire, where he rubbed shoulders (and shot selfies with) Bill Nye the Science Guy, Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, and Arduino creator Massimo Banzi. || Does Kevin have a Kickstarter in the works? There's nothing about Arduboy on Kickstarter.com, and given the Arduboy's simplicity and low price (currently $50), plus stories about it everywhere from Time.com to engadget to Slashdot, he may not need any financing or capital to make his idea succeed. (Alternate Video Link)

Tim: So,Kevin what is the ARDUBOY?

Kevin: The ARDUBOY is a programmable game system, size of a credit card, you can use the Arduino language, which many people are familiar with and it’s got a OLED display, capacitor touch buttons, a piezo speaker, it’s powered by a coin cell battery, run for about 9 hours actually and looking to have these on sale in about couple of months on website Tindie.

Tim: Okay. What’s your inspiration for making this tiny, tiny little computer?

Kevin: Actually a lot of people make – well maybe not a lot of people, few people make credit card shaped electronic devices, some people have made one that has a USB stick on, you can plug it into a computer and it emulates a keyboard and types a program into and compiles or downloads his resume from the website. So other people out there are doing really cool electronic stuff, I wanted to kind of put my version out there and people really responded to it.

Tim: I’ve not seen many that as yours do that actually include display at this size?

Kevin: Right, and that was one of the fun things about the project, is I wasn’t sure how I wanted to kind of get my name out there, how I wanted to do the business card, but I had all these parts on my table and I had a circuit board next to the screen I was just using in another project, and I said hey, these are the same height, wouldn’t it be cool if you made a cut out and then you could cut out the processor and the battery and it just became a constant battle of finding components from just the right thickness in order to make it very flush and thin design and it’s been received really well, people really like it.

Tim: Could you go ahead and point out some of the components?

Kevin: Well, absolutely, so we’ve got the coin cell battery here which is inside of a custom kind of prototype contact and we can flip it over and see the back side, you can see that kind of snaps into there. You’ve got capacitive touchpad buttons, so you are actually touching the electrical contacts, the chip that’s in there. This is the Atmel 328p which is the same one that’s in your Arduino. It’s a piezoelectric speaker there and this is the one bit OLED display, it’s got 128/64 pixels, refreshes it about 30 frames per second.

Tim: So at that speed you can play games pretty nicely?

Kevin: Yeah, you can run games pretty good. The horsepower of the chip isn’t all that great. We are running at 8 megahertz because of the 3-volt battery supply. So one thing to consider is games you know, if you ran it on a Gameboy or maybe an original Mac – I mean Apple, it’s been a while since I’ve had to say Apple instead of Mac, but yeah, I mean, Oregon Trail for example would be kind of a great example. People have talked about putting, choose your own adventures, story games on there. We’ve got an example here. In my badge, you’ve got a version that’s running rasterized 3D cubes, so you could write a little maze game through that. So I want to see what other people come up with, that’s really my challenge is. You’re going to be forced to kind of push the boundaries of your hardware or your hardware programming skills or software skills in order to maximize the performance of the device, and then in the future we get a little color screen action going on, a faster processor and here is an example of what we might be able to do in the future, with additional development, adding more components, but you can see we have to edit a large

Tim: That’s the same processor?

Kevin: This is a faster processor, so again, a faster processor, bigger screen, color screen requires larger battery, so you can’t do with thin device at this stage, but 10 years, 20 years, it’s going to be amazing to see what we have as far as tangible objects, internet of things, getting Bluetooth, Wi-Fi on to these devices, really excited to come out with new versions with new features.

Tim: What about the software to run on this? There can’t be that many games that are optimized for this size, are there?

Kevin: Actually there is a library of games already out there, I’m not the first person to make an Arduino game system. There’s a device called the Hack Vision, that’s actually where I got most of the source code like for example on Space Rocks here, which is a kind of a different name for a popular game and it looks like Asteroids, which is a trademarked property, that was available for the thing and all I had to do is download a source code and change the library files for my display and my button configuration and that’s what’s so amazing about it, is the community is millions of people strong, and there’s already stuff out there, people are familiar with it. I have people at this convention coming to me all the time. Oh, 20 years ago man, I was programming on like Pong and stuff like that. I know exactly how I can do that in assembly. And so these people will be able to kind of revisit, have some nostalgia, at the same time then encouraging the learning of a new generation of people can get excited about this. And like I said, as the new versions come out, keep building that community, maybe even potentially running some contest, housing some prize money out there for people to make some really cool games.

Tim: I know you’ve got a vision for how to program this using hardware, can you show us the interface you’ve got

Kevin: Oh, yeah, so programming right now is done by actually soldering some pin connectors on here, but in the future it’ll actually have female pin connectors which will come out on a surface amounted to the board, so you’ll be able to have some pins or something, you’ll be able to like docket into a connector, have a plug-in connector just like that, standard USB, the serial FTDI adaptor. It will sell with that as an option. You’ll be able to if you have one already be able to just go ahead and get the ARDUBOY by itself and yeah, I mean that cable will also work with a whole litany of other devices, so it’s getting you started and familiar with an existing ecosystem, a lot of exciting parts.

Tim: And it’s the same software infrastructure you used to program in the Arduino device?

Kevin: Exactly. So you make a game for this and somebody else comes out with another Arduino software, faster processors and things like that. It’s going to port. And for the most part it’s an objective C language too. So you can take that and I’ll try and make my code pretty clean, so you could pull it over to a PIC or a ARM processor, things like that, as long as the drivers is well enough designed, so it’s not hard coded in there, your port registers, this is all going to be portable code, absolutely.

Tim: And what besides games?

Kevin: Some people said some interesting stuff, so like a password keeper, you can put in a certain button combination to get your passwords, if you add a USB port and may be a bigger processor that can handle encryption, you can do a Bitcoin wallet. It would be a really great use case. Some people said interactive fiction, you know maybe that’s not quite a game but it’s kind of like when people said just put your resume on it and stuff like that. I had a guy who works

Tim: I’m not sure that’s totally necessary in your case.

Kevin: No, no, it’s absolutely not, but I mean one of the other cool examples, a guy contacted me, he does relief work for disasters, and what he wanted to do was let’s put like a survival guide on there, it can fit in your wallet, and it’s got pages and pages of information on. Is it practical? No, but it’s neat, it gets people’s attention and one of the most exciting things about that is people ask me that, can it do this, can it do that, and invariably the answer is yes. I mean, it’s a computer. The question is can we get it that small and it’s just time, energy and money and I’m going to go far as down that path as I can.

Tim: Wikipedia.

Kevin: Yeah.

Tim: I wantWikipedia in my pocket.

Kevin: Wikipedia in your pocket. I mean, once you get – I mean here’s an example of another, they keep teasing you with these things, but this has got a Bluetooth chip on it and this one can be programmed remotely and then can receive like notifications from your cellphone potentially. This is a high energy version, there’s low energy Bluetooth, which will run on a coin cell and actually I’m already in the works of developing hardware that can be programmed, you know, coin cell Bluetooth, but that’s down the line. I want to focus on getting this thing in people’s hands as soon as possible, people are screaming, I mean they say we want this, we want

Tim: How soon is that?

Kevin: As soon as possible, a couple of months hopefully, as we are selling on the retail website, Tindie.com, it’s a retail website for independent hardware creators to be able to sell their own equipment. And I’m going to be launching there exclusively for three months, then after that you’re going to see a lot of new more exciting stuff.

Tim: I’ll ask one more question.

Kevin: Sure.

Tim: Using coin cells here.

Kevin: Yes.

Tim: What is the battery life because I know they’re great for a watch.

Kevin: Sure.

Tim: But my watch doesn’t do anything that this does?

Kevin: No, it doesn’t, but you can actually get as much as nine hours. This has been running since yesterday and actually the whole conventions are nine plus hours of battery life, people have asked me what about rechargeable battery. You can do that, you can get that coin cell battery rechargeable, but just to give you an idea, it only runs for about an hour on that, so people who want to just use it for a few minutes at a time, that might work, but for an example, I’ve had these as a badge or whatever.

Tim: That you can do.

Kevin: Yeah, sure the idea is that you can have it on all day, oh, it’s not rotating, let’s get this moving here for you. This is a 3D rasterized generator there, so the idea is kind of give you, how much could you do with a horsepower, a maze type game or something like that. But you know, getting Twitter updates from it isn’t far off, maybe NFC, you could get it programmed and then hand you the – here’s some more information and stuff like that, but

Tim: You ever seethe point of a smart wallet in the same way you have smartphone...

Kevin: If you guys want to see it, let me know, I mean, get out to me, bateskeycom is my Twitter handle, so you can always tweet at there, and then kevin@bateskey.com; feel free to email me any time and let me know what you want to see, what you don’t want to see and I’ll do my best to see what I can do to make you happy.

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A Credit Card-Sized, Arduino-Based Game Device (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @04:01PM (#47552597)

    Hmmm...a small-factor gaming device. My kids call that "one of dad's old phones." They no longer have cell service, but they pretty much all run Android or iOS and can still play a lot of games, including games that need the Internet. Plus, you can buy an entry-level Android phone new (from a pay-as-you-go service) for around $50. So...what's the market for this thing?

    • Well, none of those can fit inside your wallet. However, the buttons are capacitive.. and given that you'd generally need to hold something this size between your thumb and forefinger at all times, leaving your thumb off the button and moving it between buttons may prove to be a bit of a challenge.
      • "Well, none of those can fit inside your wallet"

        Perhaps so, but if I put something like this in my wallet, it will be broken in a day or 2. See, I put my wallet in my back pocket. And any electronic device thin enough to put in my wallet, will likely snap they first time I sit down too fast. And.... I'm only 165 lbs. I can't even imagine something like this being able to survive in the wallet of a comic book guy/neckbeard's wallet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To learn how to program, To learn how to soldier. To learn electronics.

    • Android phones have lots of baggage. When hardware is cheap, dedicated hardware is best.
  • ... the games it can run include, ... The most exciting one could be made by you!"

    Except in Soviet Russia ...

    [ Ya, I hate myself for this, but it's been a really slow day. ]

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @04:22PM (#47552757) Journal
    ...please, PLEASE edit this video down to 1-2 minutes.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      At least you see a movie. I have not been able to see one on /. because of Module Error each time.
      As I can see videos on any other site, I don't even bother to find out why.

      • At least you see a movie. I have not been able to see one on /. because of Module Error each time. As I can see videos on any other site, I don't even bother to find out why.

        Really, are you using Lynx on a *nix box?

        What OS are you using?

  • What's really such a big deal about this?

    I mean, sure -- it's cool that he shrunk a hand-held game system concept down into something this tiny. But practically speaking, I can't see much marketability for something that just allows replaying the same old, relatively simplistic arcade games of the 80's (and "standards" like chess)?

    Strikes me as more of a novelty, especially for Arduino fans. But again, just how many pieces of electronics do we need to run this stuff? Sure, you can suggest that other program

    • by Roblimo ( 357 )

      Why bother? Because it's a challenge and it's fun. I'm working on a customized bike with stabilizer wheels instead of simply buying a trike like other Old People.

      Why? It's a challenge and it's fun. :)

      • Those are called training wheels.

        And reinventing something thats been done to death is neither a challenge or fun for most of us.

        Why are you posting on your own story? Story can't stand on its merits so you have to swoop in and try to defend it?

        Hint: You're just re-enforcing his point, this is a stupid story to post to slashdot. WTF is wrong with you guys?

        You seem to be impressed because he's trying to sell something for $50 which most of us made in one form or another 5 years ago in the earlier days of

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      Its not even a novelty for arduino fans, couple resistors and you can plop out the same games on your TV

      Ok so the guy made something cool, there's thousands of people doing the same thing, so it doesn't seem whether you make something cool or not, its all about the marketing, he could have been holding a dog turd up there, whoopditie do

  • 9+ hours of playtime on standard batteries and 1 hour on rechargables.

    Coin-sized batteries are that poor when it comes to recharging? What's the point then?

    • Coin sized rechargeable batteries are not designed for high capacity. They're designed for backup batteries that get recharged when power is available. Usually also means high impedance, which translates to lots of wasted power when discharged quickly.

      A typical CR2016 is rated at 90mah with a 0.1mah load.

      Not sure where to buy rechargeable 2016 sized batteries, but a Li2032 which is twice the volume has a capacity of 40mah. a CR2032 is about 240mah. Nearly 5 times the power. 6x if you're using a linear regul

  • I'm an avid gamer, but at my age, for me to play this thing, I'd need bifocals for my bifocals. What is that, like quadfocals?

    I blame online porn.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    'Arduino' and 'RPi' and all this other shit is fooling dumb kids into believing they're doing electronics when all they're doing is the 21st century version of writing little shit programs in BASIC. You talk to them, and you quickly find out that they believe you can't do ANYTHING without a microcontroller, and that if you're telling them otherwise that you must be trying to trick them or something. Furthermore they actually believe that anything that you CAN do without a micorcontroller must not be worth d
  • by Cyfun ( 667564 ) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:32AM (#47555333) Homepage

    For $50, you get a tiny monochrome screen, a D-pad and TWO WHOLE BUTTONS, and a non-rechargeable 9 hour battery.

    A coin cell battery? This is 2014, and it doesn't have a rechargeable battery? He did mention you can get rechargeable coin cells, but they only last an hour. So with moderate use, you're gonna be spending a few bucks a week on coin cell batteries, not to mention having to carry around spares with you.

    Yes, it's nice and thin, but nobody is gonna stick this in their wallet unless he invents a flexible PCB.

    Or, for $30, you can get a brand new LG smartphone from Walmart, running Android 4.4, with a 3.5" color touchscreen, a dual core 1.2ghz processor, camera, wifi, bluetooth, GPS, accelerometers, speakers and a microphone, several gigs of storage space, and a RECHARGEABLE battery that will last 10 hours heavily used and over a week in standby. I guess the only downside is that touchscreens aren't as good as D-pads and physical buttons for games, but you could always buy a USB controller and get a lot more buttons. And while it IS about the size of a credit card, but half an inch thick. And instead of shelling out a few bucks a week on coin cell batteries, you could spend that money on a straight talk cellular plan and get UNLIMITED INTERNET ACCESS!

  • There are alternatives. Recently got myself one of these, http://gamebuino.com/ [gamebuino.com] Nice little piece of HW.
  • Really? That's not a sales pitch, it's a warning bell.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire