What just happened? A team of researchers from Northwestern University and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands have developed a version of Nintendo’s classic handheld that does away with batteries entirely, instead relying on energy harnessed from the sun… and the player.
Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy was the must-have Christmas gift of 1989. Of course, anyone that got one for the holidays that year quickly learned that you also needed a bountiful supply of AA batteries if you planned to play for extended periods of time away from a wall outlet.
It wasn’t as tough on batteries as Sega’s Game Gear, mind you, but it wasn’t exactly what you’d call efficient, either.
Dubbed the Engage, the machine features a small LCD screen surrounded by solar panels. Another solar strip is positioned near the bottom of the handheld. The buttons are designed to capture energy when pressed by the user. It can play any original Game Boy game directly from the cartridge, albeit with some pretty severe limitations.
On a decently sunny day in a game with a moderate amount of clicking, you can expect about 10 seconds of play before the system shuts down for a second or so. It’ll then power back up and continue – right where you left off thanks to non-volatile memory that stores the system state just before shutting down – for another 10 seconds or so before going dark again. Rinse and repeat. Indefinitely.
Oh, and there’s no sound.
“With our platform, we want to make a statement that it is possible to make a sustainable gaming system that brings fun and joy to the user,” said Przemyslaw Pawelczak from TU Delft.
The researchers said the system presents a playable scenario for slower-paced games like solitaire, chess and Tetris but not so much for fast-paced action games or bigger titles like Pokemon Blue where the constant pausing would no doubt get annoying.
The researchers plan to present their findings during the UbiComp 2020 online conference on September 15.