Yes, Of Course Someone Shot the Eclipse on a Game Boy Camera

This one shouldn’t surprise us, but there is something particularly enjoyable about seeing the total eclipse of the Sun through a Game Boy camera.

The Game Boy got its camera accessory back in 1998 when CCD-based cameras with poor resolution were just becoming widely available to the public. This camera can capture 128×112 pixel images in the four value grey scale for which the handheld is so loved.

Having taken part in eclipse mania ourselves we can tell you that unless you did some serious research and prep for photographing the thing, this makes as much sense as pulling out your smartphone did. We posit that it certainly produced a more pleasing result.

[jhx] says this is more a weird halo effect of the shot than it is a quality image of totality. At this resolution, the moon-covered Sun should be very few pixels in size, right? But fidelity is for photographers, this is for hackers. Getting the digital image off of the Game Boy camera involved using an Interact Mega Memory cartridge on a Game Boy Pocket to transfer it over, then using a USB 64M cartridge to copy from the Mega Memory and ultimately to a computer.

Glamour shots ain’t easy, yo. But it is possible to read images directly off the Game Boy camera thanks to some reverse engineering work.

[via Kotaku]

Two-Bit Astrophotography

The Game Boy Camera is a 128×112 pixel sensor from 1998 that was probably the first digital camera in many, many homes. There’s not much you can do with it now, besides replicate old Neil Young album covers and attempting and failing to impress anyone born after the year 1995. Nevertheless, screwing around with old digital cameras is cool, so [Alex] strapped one fo these Game Boy Cameras to an old telescope.

For any astrophotography endeavor, the choice of telescope is important. For this little experiment, [Alex] used a 6” Fraunhofer telescope built in 1838 at the Old Observatory of Leiden. The Game Boy with Camera was attached to the scope using a universal cell phone adapter. Apparently the ‘universal’ in this universal cell phone adapter is accurate – the setup was easy and [Alex] quickly got an image of a clocktower on his Game Boy.

Turning to the heavens, [Alex] took a look at the most interesting objects you can see with a 6-inch telescope. Images of the moon turned out rather well, with beautiful 2-bit dithering along the terminator. Jupiter was a bright white spot in a sea of noise, but [Alex] could see four slightly brighter pixels orbiting where Stellarium predicted the Galilean moons would be.

Was this experiment a success? Between cloudy nights and a relatively small telescope, we’re saying yes. These are pretty impressive results for such a terrible digital camera.

Neural Nets And Game Boy Cameras

Released in 1998, the Game Boy camera was perhaps the first digital camera many young hackers got their hands on. Around the time Sony Mavica cameras were shoving VGA resolution pictures onto floppy drives, the Game Boy camera was snapping 256×224 resolution pictures and displaying them on a 190×144 resolution display. The picture quality was terrible, but [Roland Meertens] recently had an idea. Why not use neural networks to turn these Game Boy Camera pictures into photorealistic images?

Neural networks, deep learning, machine learning, or whatever other buzzwords we’re using require training data. In this case, the training data would be a picture from a Game Boy Camera and a full-color, high-resolution image of the same scene. This dataset obviously does not exist so [Roland] took a few close up head shots of celebrities and reduced the color to four shades of gray.

[Roland]'s face captured with the Game Boy Camera (left), and turned into a photorealistic image (right)
[Roland]’s face captured with the Game Boy Camera (left), and turned into a photorealistic image (right)
For the deep machine artificial neural learning part of this experiment, [Roland] turned to a few papers on converting photographs to sketches and back again, real-time style transfer. After some work, this neural network turned the test data back into images reasonably similar to the original images. This is what you would expect from a trained neural network, but [Roland] also sent a few pics from the Game Boy Camera through this deep machine artificial learning minsky. These images turned out surprisingly well – a bit washed out, but nearly lomographic in character.

We’ve seen a lot of hacks with the Game Boy Camera over the years. Everything from dumping the raw images with a microcontroller to turning the sensor into a camcorder has been done. Although [Roland]’s technique will only work on faces, it is an excellent example of what neural networks can do.

Game Boy Camera Cartridge Reversed, Photos Dumped

There’s something magical and nostalgic about extremely low resolution in this era of mega-megapixels on every cell phone. And the Game Boy’s big bulbous camera module just looks so cool. [Robson Couto] didn’t stop at simply using the camera — that’s been done before — but actually reversed the card’s protocol so that he could leave it entirely intact. As you can see from the banner image, it was a success.

A project like this doesn’t get done overnight, and [Robson] drew on a lot of his own previous work as well as the work of others. For instance, he’d already made a board that interfaces Game Boy Paks to his PC through an ATmega32 and a serial port. He’d also written software that understands the card header format on the PC side. So dumping the ROMs contents should be no problem. But of course, it was.

[Robson] could read one bank of memory, but not any of the others. It turns out that the camera pack uses a clock signal that not many other cards use. It took [Robson] some serious work — a lot of it false starts and dead ends — to get this particular part working.


If you’re into Game Boy hacking, give [Robson]’s writeup a good read. Also note that he’s got fantastic links to previous research in all of his posts. If you couldn’t care less about keeping the cartridge intact, you can simply interface the camera with a TI calculator, use the camera to transmit Morse code, or simply add a thermal printer for a low-res instant camera with style.

Gameboy Camera Becomes Camcorder

[Furrtek] is a person of odd pursuits, which mainly involve making old pieces of technology do strange things. That makes him a hero to us, and his latest project elevates this status: he built a device that turns the Nintendo Gameboy camera cartridge into a camcorder. His device replaces the Gameboy, capturing the images from the camera, displaying them on the screen and saving them to a micro SD card.

Before you throw out your cellphone or your 4K camcorder, bear in mind that the captured video is monochrome (with only 4 levels between white and black), at a resolution of 128 by 112 pixels and at about 14 frames per second. Sound is captured at 8192Hz, producing the same buzzy,  grainy sound that the Gameboy is famous for. Although it isn’t particularly practical, [Furrtek]s build is extremely impressive, built around an NXP LPC1343 ARM Cortex-M3 MCU processor. This processor repeatedly requests an image from the camera, receives the image and then collects the images and sound together to form the video and save it to the micro SD card. As always, [Furrtek] has made all of the source code and other files available for anyone who wants to try it out.

For those who aren’t familiar with his previous work, [Furrtek] has done things like making a Speak & Spell swear like a sailor, adding a VGA out to a Virtualboy, and hacking a Gameboy Color to control electronic shelf labels.

Continue reading “Gameboy Camera Becomes Camcorder”

8-bit Digital Photo Gun

One of the first popular mass-produced digital cameras was the Game Boy camera, a terrible black and white image sensor stuck inside a highly modified Game Boy cartridge. With a Game Boy, the camera, and the Game Boy printer, it was able to produce low-resolution but still surprisingly usable images. Combine all these parts together with the best of hacker art from [vtol] and what do you get? The Game Boy Instant Photo Gun.

There aren’t many details for this build, but it looks like this is an uncased Game Boy Brick, a Game Boy camera, and Game Boy Printer assembled into something that looks dangerous and won’t get past a TSA checkpoint. That might be fixed by repurposing an old NES zapper.

We’ve seen [vtol]’s work before with a machine that probably doesn’t steal your credit card info, a levitating speaker, and something that doesn’t reference [Tarkovsky] enough. This build is right up there with the rest of them.

Thanks [Itay] for the link.

ArTICam Interfaces Game Boy Camera with TI Calculators

[Christopher Mitchell] has given Texas Instruments calculators the ability to capture images through a Game Boy Camera with ArTICam. First introduced in 1998, The Game Boy Camera was one of the first low-cost digital cameras available to consumers. Since then it has found its way into quite a few projects, including this early Atmel AT90 based hack, and this Morse code transceiver.

TI calculators don’t include a Game Boy cartridge slot, so [Christopher] used an Arduino Uno to interface the two. He built upon the Arduino-TI Calculator Linking (ArTICL) Library  to create ArTICam. Getting the Arduino to talk with the Game Boy Camera’s M64282FP image sensor turned out to be easy, as there already are code examples available. The interface between the camera sensor and the Arduino is simple enough. 6 digital lines for an oddball serial interface, one analog sense line, power and ground. [Christopher] used a shield to solder everything up, but says you can easily get away with wiring directly the Arduino Uno’s I/O pins. The system is compatible with the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus family of calculators. Grabbing an image is as simple as calling  GetCalc(Pic1) from your calculator program.

So, If you have an old calculator lying around, give it a try to enjoy some 128×123-pixel grayscale goodness!