Classroom Gadget Turned Arduino Compatible

Cheap second-hand hardware is usually a fertile ground for hacking, and by looks of this project, the digital classroom aids that were all the rage a few years back are no exception. [is0-mick] writes in to tell us how he managed to hack one of these devices, a SMART Reponse XE, into an Arduboy compatible game system. As it turns out, this particular gadget is powered by an ATmega128RFA, which is essentially an Arduino-compatible AVR microcontroller with a 2.4GHz RF transceiver tacked on. This makes it an extremely interesting platform for hacking, especially since they are going for as little as $3 USD on eBay.

There’s no USB-Serial converter built into the SMART Response XE, so you’ll need to provide your own external programmer to flash the device. But luckily there’s a labeled ISP connector right on the board which makes it pretty straightforward to get everything wired up.

Of course, getting the hardware working was slightly more complicated than just flashing an Arduino Sketch onto the thing. [is0-mick] has provided his bootloader and modified libraries to get the device’s QWERTY keyboard and ST7586S controlled 384×160 LCD working.

Playing games is fun, but when his friend [en4rab] sent him the SMART Response XE to fiddle with, the goal was actually to turn them into cheap 2.4 GHz analyzers similar to what was done with the IM-ME. It seems they’re well on their way, and [is0-mick] invites anyone who might be interested in filling in some of the blanks on the RF side to get involved.

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FPGA Magic Puts Little Embedded Screens Up On The Big Screen

Old-school handheld gaming platforms have a certain charm, but it’s fair to say that their relatively tiny screens don’t lend themselves to wider viewing. This presented a problem to [uXe] who wanted to display Arduboy games on the big screen, so he took a MyStorm BlackIce FPGA board and created a converter that emulates a SSD1306 OLED display and has a VGA output.

Having proved the viability of the idea, it was ported to a dedicated PCB with onboard ancillaries such as a level shifter for a 5 volt input. In an exciting twist, with a few modifications it’s also emulated a GameBoy screen, allowing full-sized playable games from that platform too. But the power of this hack isn’t relegated to gaming. SSD1306 is just one of a few different common standards for embedded displays. The FPGA work in this project is the blueprint for building a VGA adapter for any number of display replacements. We’d love to see an HD44780 mod of this!

The result as you can see in the video below the break is very much more in the spirit of the OLED than an HD immersive experience. But it does have a very pleasing air of an older arcade machine about it.

Several projects starting on a MyStorm BlackIce board have made it here in the past. Pretty memorable is the BBC Micro clone using one.

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Arduboy Classic Plays On Original Game Boy Screen

The Arduboy is a Kickstarter backed, 8 bit video game console that mimics the look of a very tiny Nintendo Gameboy. The Arduboy Classic is actually using the case, button and LCD screen from a classic Game Boy.

[uXe] is using the same brains, an ATMEGA32U4, along with a 328 as a co-processor to handle the classic “creme-n-spinich” gameboy screen. 2K of dual port ram acts as a buffer between the two micro-controllers meaning they can not only run while not being in lock step with eachother, but that each micro can read or write to the ram at the same time.

Currently the whole setup is spread out on a breadboard while all the interfacing is worked out, but it is working quite well. Future plans are to make a drop in motherboard replacement for the classic game system, and there is ample room for all the new electronics on the original footprint.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Arduboy project, check out our interview with it’s creator, [Kevin Bates]. That and the demo of [uXe’s] hack based on the project are both found after the break.

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An OLED Ring for Bluetooth Notifications

Wearables are the next frontier of amateur electronics, and [Kevin]’s Arduboy ring (link dead, try Internet Archive) is one of the best examples we’ve seen yet.

Inside the Arduboy is an nRF51822 – a chipset with Bluetooth Low Energy, an ARM Cortex M0,256k of Flash, and 16k of RAM. There’s also a an OLED and a touch button for displaying notifications from a phone, with the ability to reply to these notifications.

The enclosure for the ring is rather interesting. It’s a bit thick, but that’s for a reason – there’s a 40mAh battery stuffed along the sides of the ring. The enclosure itself is 3D printed to spec, and contrary to some beliefs, there’s nothing wrong with bending a LiPo cell once. Sure, it only has four hours of battery life with the display on, but it has a 24 hour battery life in standby mode, making it almost useful as an everyday wearable.

This is [Kevin]’s second wearable, the first being the Ardubracelet, an extremely interesting OLED bracelet with three different displays.  The Arduboy is much more compact and comes extremely close to looking like a product. You can check out the video of it below.

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Ardubracelet Lets you Play Tetris on your Wrist!

Making your own Tetris game is almost a rite of passage for hackers — [Kevin] has stepped up the game a little by making this awesome-flexible-triple-displayed-Tetris-watch dubbed the Ardubracelet.

At the recent Maker Faire SF our head editor [Mike] got a chance to meet with [Kevin] from Arduboy who told us about some of his upcoming projects — this wearable was one of them!

It features three super bright OLED screens on a flexible circuit board with conductive touch buttons to continue with the minimalist design. Instead of a wrist strap he’s actually made the ends magnetic to hold it in place — did we mention the battery also lasts for over 10 hours?

At the heart of the flexible circuit board is an Atmega328p, which is the same chip used in the Arduboy (a credit card sized GameBoy). This is just the first prototype but he’s planning on making it even better in the future complete with Bluetooth and some 3D printed parts to make it look a bit nicer.

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Video Links: Hunting for Hacks at Maker Faire

 

Why not round out our two-week Bay Area Maker Faire coverage with a Links post? This time around it’s video links. We mixed together a bunch of interesting clips that didn’t get their own video, as well as a dose of what it feels like to walk around the Faire all weekend. Join us after the break for the links.

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The Credit Card Sized GameBoy

Think you’ve seen every possible type of Arduino based hand held video game? [Kevin] managed to coax something new out of the theme with a very clever credit card sized console that uses some very interesting construction techniques.

The inspiration for this project began when [Kevin] dropped an SMD resistor into a drill hole on a PCB. This resistor fell right through the hole, giving him the idea creating a PCB with milled cutouts made to fit SMD components. With a little experimentation, [Kevin] found he could fit a TQFP32 ATMega328p  – the same microcontroller in the Arduino – in a custom square cutout. The rest of the components including a CR2016 battery and OLED display use the same trick.

The rest of the design involved taking Adafruit and Sparkfun breakout boards, and modifying the individual circuits until something broke. Then, off to Eagle to create a PCB.

[Kevin]’s experiment in extremely unusual PCB design worked, resulting in a credit-card sized “Game Boy” that’s only 1.6 millimeters thick. The controls are capacitive touch sensors and he already has an easter egg hidden in the code; enter the Konami code and the Hackaday logo pops up to the tune of [Rick Astley]’s magnum opus.

Now [Kevin] is in a bit of a bind. He’d like to take this prototype and turn it into a crowd sourced campaign. In our opinion, this “Game Boy in a wallet” would probably do well on a site like Tindie, but any sort of large scale manufacturing is going to be a rather large pain. If you have any wishes, advice, of complaints for [Kevin] he’s got a few links at the bottom of his project page.