Good news for fans of PlayStation Vita — a new project from [Sergi “xerpi” Granell] allows users to run software written for Sony’s erstwhile handheld system on Nintendo’s latest money printing machine, the Switch. To be clear, there’s a very long road ahead before the vita2hos project is able to run commercial games (if ever). But it’s already able to run simple CPU-rendered Vita homebrew binaries on the Switch, demonstrating the concept is sound.
On a technical level, vita2hos is not unlike WINE, which enables POSIX-compliant operating systems such as Linux, Mac OS, and BSD to run Windows programs so long as they use the same processor architecture. Since the Switch’s ARM v8 processor is capable of executing code compiled for the Vita’s ARM v7 while running in 32-bit compatibility mode, there’s no emulation necessary. The project simply needs to provide the running program with work-alike routines fast enough, and nobody is the wiser. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done.
According to the project page, the big hurdle right now is 3D graphics support. As you could imagine, many Vita games would have been pushing the system’s graphical hardware to the limit, making it exceptionally difficult to catch all the little edge cases that will undoubtedly come up when and if the project expands to support commercial titles. But for homebrew Vita games and utilities that may not even utilize the system’s 3D hardware, adding compatibility will be much easier. For instance, it’s already able to run [xerpi]’s own CHIP-8 emulator.
[xerpi] provides instructions on how to install vita2hos and the Vita executable to be tested onto an already hacked Nintendo Switch should you want to give it a shot. But unless you’ve got experience developing for the Vita or Switch and are willing to lend a hand, you might want to sit this one out until things mature a bit.
It constantly amazes us what we hackers can build these days, (electronics shortages aside) we have access to an incredible array of parts, with specifications that only a few years ago would be bank-breaking and longer ago just fantasy. It’s nice to see people building one-offs just for fun, in spite of the current difficulties getting parts to actually be delivered. For example, check out this miniaturized Nintendo Switch created by [scottbez1] that plays animated GIFs from an SD card on tiny 1.14″ LCD display.
Obviously such a diminutive hack requires a custom PCB, which was a job for KiCAD. Armed with a 3D model of the LCD, the casing and PCB outline were drawn using Fusion 360. The PCB hosts a LilyGo ESP32 module for all the heavy lifting, with the WiFi adding some fun future capabilities not yet explored. The design is about as tight as it can get without pushing the limits of the PCB process too far, including a neat trick of sneaking passives inside the body of the SD card! That’s another space-saving idea we’ll be banking.
All-in-all a neat little hack, showing some good modelling and construction techniques and a good looking end result. Code for your reference may be found on the project GitHub, but as of writing the hardware design is not available.
Whilst this project shrinks the Switch, here’s one that goes the other way and super-sizes it, and if you have a switch lite but crave a little modern charging magic, then look no further than this Qi wireless charging hack.
The whole idea behind the Nintendo Switch is that the system isn’t just a handheld, but can be converted into a more traditional home game console when placed into its dock. The wireless controllers even pop off the sides so you can kick back on the couch and enjoy your big-screen gaming from a distance. Judging by how many units Nintendo has sold of their latest system, it’s clearly a winning combination.
Lucky, this crew is no stranger to developing impressive GBA SP add-ons. Last month they took the wraps off of an expanded 3D printed rear panel for the system that housed a number of upgrades, such as an expanded battery pack and support for Bluetooth audio.
This mod uses a similarly expanded “trunk” for the GBA, but this time it’s to hold the rails the Joy-Cons mount to, as well as the electronics required to get the modern controllers talking to the Game Boy. Namely, a Raspberry Pi Zero and a custom PCB designed by [Kyle] that uses a dozen transistors to pull the system’s control inputs low when the Pi’s GPIO pins go high.
[Tito] doesn’t seem to mention it in the video below, but we’re assuming the dock component of this project is just a 3D printed box with a connector sticking up for the GBA SP’s link cable port, since that’s where the TV-out modification outputs its video. Incidentally that means you don’t really need the dock itself, but it certainly looks cool.
At the end of the video [Tito] goes over a few of the rough edges of the current build, including the rather lengthy pairing process to get the Joy-Cons talking to the Raspberry Pi. But ultimately, he says that not only does the system feel good in his hands, but playing those classic games on the big screen has been a nice change of pace.
The Nintendo Switch is a monstrously popular machine, and it’s had no difficulty raking in the bucks for the Japanese gaming giant, but there’s no denying that it’s technologically a bit behind the curve. Until the long-rumored “Pro” version of the Switch materializes, industrious gamers like [Robotanv] will simply have to make up for Nintendo’s Luddite ways by hacking in their own upgraded hardware.
In this case, [Robotanv] wanted to add Qi wireless charging to his Switch Lite. He figured that if all of his other mobile devices supported the convenient charging standard, why not his portable gaming system? Luckily, the system already supports the increasingly ubiquitous USB-C, so finding an aftermarket Qi receiver that would connect to it was no problem. He just needed to install it into the handheld’s case.
After liberating the Qi receiver from its protective pouch enclosure to get it a bit thinner, [Robotanv] taped it to the inside of the system’s case and ran thin wires to the rear of the USB-C port. As luck would have it, Nintendo was kind enough to put some test pads for the power pins right behind the port, which made for an ideal spot to connect the charger.
At first he only connected the positive and negative lines from the charger, but quickly realized he also had to connect the CC pin to get the juice flowing. After that, it was just a matter of buttoning the system back up. All told, it looks like a pretty simple modification for anyone who’s not bashful about taking a soldering iron to their $199 console.
If you liked playing Super Mario Bros. 35, the unique multiplayer battle royale Mario game that Nintendo released last year on the Switch to celebrate 35 years since the original NES version of Super Mario Bros, then it’s likely that you have been disappointed since April. The gaming giant ended support and removed the game’s servers once their 35 year celebrations were over, leaving the game’s players hanging. Happily there’s a solution, because [Kinnay] has presented a reverse-engineered Nintendo game server replacement along with a game patch, that should keep gamers in multi-Mario fun forever.
While it’s a boon for fans of this particular game, the real value here is in introducing us to the reverse engineering work on those Nintendo servers. We learn about their various foibles over several generations of console, and perhaps most importantly we learn something of their inner workings.
The rumor mill has recently been buzzing about Nintendo’s plans to introduce a new version of their extremely popular Switch console in time for the holidays. A faster CPU, more RAM, and an improved OLED display are all pretty much a given, as you’d expect for a mid-generation refresh. Those upgraded specifications will almost certainly come with an inflated price tag as well, but given the incredible demand for the current Switch, a $50 or even $100 bump is unlikely to dissuade many prospective buyers.
But according to a report from Bloomberg, the new Switch might have a bit more going on under the hood than you’d expect from the technologically conservative Nintendo. Their sources claim the new system will utilize an NVIDIA chipset capable of Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), a feature which is currently only available on high-end GeForce RTX 20 and GeForce RTX 30 series GPUs. The technology, which has already been employed by several notable PC games over the last few years, uses machine learning to upscale rendered images in real-time. So rather than tasking the GPU with producing a native 4K image, the engine can render the game at a lower resolution and have DLSS make up the difference.
The implications of this technology, especially on computationally limited devices, is immense. For the Switch, which doubles as a battery powered handheld when removed from its dock, the use of DLSS could allow it to produce visuals similar to the far larger and more expensive Xbox and PlayStation systems it’s in competition with. If Nintendo and NVIDIA can prove DLSS to be viable on something as small as the Switch, we’ll likely see the technology come to future smartphones and tablets to make up for their relatively limited GPUs.
But why stop there? If artificial intelligence systems like DLSS can scale up a video game, it stands to reason the same techniques could be applied to other forms of content. Rather than saturating your Internet connection with a 16K video stream, will TVs of the future simply make the best of what they have using a machine learning algorithm trained on popular shows and movies?
The Nintendo Switch has been a hugely successful console for the century-old former playing card manufacturer. At least part of that success has come from its portability, of which [Michael Pick] has probably lost a bit with his 65-pound giant Nintendo Switch built for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. (Video, embedded below.) What he’s lost in portability has been more than made up in coolness-factor, though, and we’re sure the kids will appreciate that they can still play the monster gaming machine.
From its plywood body to the 3D-printed buttons, the supersized build looks solid. Docked inside the left Joy-Con is the actual console powering its big brother. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is that tiny (well, normal-sized) Joy-Cons are also hidden inside. These are manipulated via servos for the buttons and a direct pass-through setup for the joysticks to control games on the Switch.
While the Joy-Cons are unmodified and completely removable, [Michael] does recognize this isn’t necessarily the ideal solution. But he was certain it was a hack he could make work in the time he had, so he went for it. He’s looked into the controller emulation possible with Teensys and would probably use that solution for any giant Switch projects in the future. Of course, with this build, players can still pair regular Joy-Cons and pro controllers for more practical gaming.
Most Nintendo mods we see attempt to make the console smaller, not larger, so this is an eye-catching change of pace. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the colossal console in action after it was installed, only some stills of hospital staff wheeling it in the front doors. But we can imagine that the children’s smiles are at least as big as ours were when we saw it.