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: 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.
Tim: Using coin cells here.
Tim: What is the battery life because I know they’re great for a watch.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.