Of all the people I was looking forward to meeting at Supercon, aside from my Hackaday colleagues with whom I had worked for five years without ever meeting, was a fellow from Germany named Matthias Balwierz. The name might not ring a bell, but he’ll certainly be familiar to Hackaday readers as Bitluni, the sometimes goofy but always entertaining and enlightening face of “Bitluni’s Lab” on YouTube.
I’d been covering Bitluni’s many ESP32 hacks over the years, and had struck up a correspondence with him, swapping ideas and asking for advice on the many projects I start but somehow never finish. Luckily for us, Bitluni is far better on follow-through than I am, and he brought that breadth and depth of experience to the Design Lab stage for that venue’s last talk of the 2019 Superconference, before the party moved next door for the badge-hacking presentations.
In his talk and in the many experiments that went into it, Bitluni makes a great case for the ESP32 being the perfect chip for audio and video applications, and so much more. With its dual-core microprocessor – or three if you count the ultra-low-power coprocessor – and 520 kiB of SRAM, the Espressif chip is really a remarkable beast, but as Bitluni points out, there’s even more under the hood, much of which he’s learned to put to good use with his projects.
Take this ESP-32 X-Y display, the first Bitluni build that caught our attention back in 2017. Even back then Bitluni was stretching what the chip could do; when he found that the onboard DACs weren’t fast enough to do what he wanted, he played with the I²S code and found he could increase the speed 27-fold. He put his newfound DAC skills to use with both an AM radio transmitter and a composite video encoder, and eventually a VGA display using an R-2R ladder. HDMI display remains seemingly out of reach on the ESP-32, but we suspect he’ll keep working on that anyway.
Essentially turning one core of the ESP-32 into a GPU leaves another core for other tasks, making the SOC a perfect low-end game console. This composite video and mono sound space shoot-em-up leverages everything that he’s learned about the ESP-32, and is actually a simplification of an earlier 10-player game console intended to entertain the crowds at Maker Faires.
Sadly, not much of the hardware made the trip to Supercon with Bitluni, but there’s only so much you can lug with you. It was more than enough for him to come along and share his hard-won ESP-32 wisdom, as well as his ready wit.