Turning The Virtual Boy Into A Handheld Console

The Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s most infamous failure, was plagued by several issues. The most glaring problem was the red monochrome stereoscopic display technology which gave many users a headache after even a short time playing, but it’s sky-high price and extremely limited library of games kept many prospective buyers at bay as well. There was also the issue of portability: unlike the Game Boy it was named after, the Virtual Boy barely qualified as a portable system due to the fact it needed to be set up on a table to use.

But now, thanks to the tireless efforts of [Shank], at least a few of those issues have been resolved. He’s built the world’s first truly portable Virtual Boy, which swaps the system’s troubled 3D display for a modern IPS LCD panel. The custom handheld, designed to merge the Virtual Boy’s unique aesthetic with the iconic styling of the Game Boy Advance, looks like it came from some alternate timeline where Nintendo decided to produce a cheaper and less cumbersome version of the system rather than abandoning it.

While the work [Shank] has put into the project is unquestionably impressive, it should be said that it took the efforts of several talented hackers to create the handheld Virtual Boy. The key component that made the modification possible in the first place is the VirtualTap by [Furrtek], which not only provides the VGA output that’s driving the LCD panel, but fools the system’s motherboard into believing the servo-actuated stereoscopic display is still connected and active.

It’s also using the open source power management board that [GMan] originally developed for his own portable N64, [Bassline] chipped in to cast the custom buttons and D-pad in translucent resin, and [Mitch 3D] put an untold number of hours into printing and reprinting the system’s multicolored enclosure until it came out just right.

All the little details of the final system, which [Shank] calls the Real Boy, put this project into a league of its own. Special combinations of button presses allows the user to change the color of the display, should you get sick of the infamous red-tint. The buttons also have RGB LEDs behind them that correspond with the color scheme of the display itself, for that extra bit of gamer cred. He even made sure to include the system’s original link port, despite the fact that no officially released game ever made use of it.

Our first run in with [Shank] was when he demoed a portable Wii built into a mint tin. It made for a pretty pitiful gaming experience, but the project demonstrated his dedication to seeing a project through to the end. Watching his skills improve over the last few years has been inspiring, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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Custom Portable N64 Embraces Modern Making

In the beginning, there was hot glue. Plus some tape, and a not inconsiderable amount of Bondo. In general, building custom portable game consoles a decade or so in the past was just a bit…messier than it is today. But with all the incredible tools and techniques the individual hardware hacker now has at their disposal, modern examples are pushing the boundaries of DIY.

This Zelda: Ocarina of Time themed portable N64 by [Chris Downing] is a perfect example. While the device is using a legitimate N64 motherboard, nearly every other component has been designed and manufactured specifically for this application. The case has been FDM 3D printed on a Prusa i3, the highly-detailed buttons were printed in resin on a Form 3, and several support PCBs and interface components made the leap from digital designs to physical objects thanks to the services of OSH Park.

A custom made FFC to relocate the cartridge port.

Today, those details are becoming increasingly commonplace in the projects we see. But that’s sort of the point. In the video after the break, [Chris] breaks down the evolution of his portable consoles from hacked and glued together monstrosities (we mean that in the nicest way possible) to the sleek and professional examples like his latest N64 commission. But this isn’t a story of one maker’s personal journey through the ranks, it’s about the sort of techniques that have become available to the individual over the last decade.

Case in point, custom flexible flat cables (FFC). As [Chris] explains, when you wanted to relocate the cartridge slot on a portable console in the past, it usually involved tedious point-to-point wiring. Now, with the low-volume production capabilities offered by companies like OSH Park, you can have your own flexible cables made that are neater, faster to install, and far more reliable.

Projects like this one, along with other incredible creations from leaders in the community such as [GMan] are changing our perceptions of what a dedicated individual is capable of. There’s no way to be sure what the state-of-the-art will look like in another 5 or 10 years, but we’re certainly excited to find out.

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Portable PS2 With A Side Of Pi

Home games consoles have occupied a special space in the marketplace over the last 3 decades. The crowning jewels of their respective companies, they inspired legions of diehard fans and bitter enmities against followers of alternative hardware. For some, a mere handheld is a watered down experience that simply won’t do. Nay, the console itself must become portable!

It’s this line of thinking that may have inspired [Darkwing Mod] to produce this elegant portable PlayStation 2. Started at the end of 2013, it’s the product of six years of on-and-off work, a situation familiar to many a hacker. It packs an original PS2 motherboard inside a slick black-and-blue case, expertly crafted with plastic and putty for a smooth finish. A Raspberry Pi 2 also lives inside, serving up games over a Samba share. This method was chosen for its short load times and robustness for the portable form factor, versus trying to squeeze a full DVD drive inside. It’s used in combination with Free MCBoot to load the games.

The worklog is extensive, detailing the long road to completion. It’s clear that this was a labor of love, and we hope it sees many hours of use now that it’s up and running. It’s not the first portable PS2 we’ve seen, and it likely won’t be the last. Video after the break.

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Building A Slimline Portable NES

Emulation of classic consoles has long been a solved problem. It’s now possible to run thousands of vintage games on a computer the size of a stick of gum, and to do so with all the benefits emulation brings. [M-Parks] isn’t the biggest fan, however – and decided to build a slimline NES handheld instead. The goal was to produce a portable NES in as compact a package as possible.

Things have come a long way in the handheld console modding scene in the last ten years. 3D printing has largely replaced vacuum forming, and it’s no different here. [M-Parks] modeled up a case and sent it off to be 3D printed in PLA, somewhat mimicking the general layout of the original Game Boy. It’s a little larger, but given that it accepts full-size original NES carts, it can only be so small.

A Retro-bit NES-on-a-chip console was used to provide the motherboard and cartridge connector for the build. Rounding this out is a power supply from Adafruit, an LM386 audio amplifier, as well as a digital volume control which is a nice touch.

While such a build may sound daunting to the absolute beginner, all it takes is a soldering iron, some hot glue, and a willingness to have a go. There’s nothing wild or groundbreaking about this build, but to dwell on that would be missing the point. [M-Parks] now has a portable NES to play on those long train rides, and learned some great skills doing it –  a solid result for any project!

If you’re keen on seeing another take, check out [Dave]’s build from a few years back.

 

Case Modding The Old School Way

Since the release of the Raspberry Pi, the hallowed tradition of taking game consoles, ripping all the plastic off, and stuffing the components into nice, handheld form factors has fallen off the wayside. That doesn’t mean people have stopped doing it, as [Akira]’s masterful handiwork shows us.

This casemod began with a Nintendo GameCube ASCII keyboard controller, a slightly rare GameCube controller that features a full keyboard smack dab in the middle. While this keyboard controller was great for Phantasy Star Online and throwing at the TV after losing Smash, the uniqueness of this controller has outshadowed its usefulness. [Akira] began his build by ripping out the keyboard and installing a 7 inch LCD. It fits well, and makes for a very unique GameCube case mod.

The rest of the build is about what you would expect – the motherboard for a PAL GameCube is stuffed inside, a quartet of 18650 batteries provide the power, and the usual mods – a memory card is soldered to the motherboard and an SD Gecko allows homebrew games and emulators to be played.

The completed project is painted with the same theme as [Samus Arans]’ Varia suit, making this a one of a kind casemod that actually looks really, really good.

Hackaday Links: May 29, 2016

Hackaday has a store‽ Yes, it’s true, and we have a Memorial Day sale going on right now. Get a cool robot had t-shirt, a cool clock, or a GoodFET. Spend money. Consume.

[fbustamante] got his hands on an old GP2X Wiz, one of those ARM-based portable media player/emulator things from a few years ago. This is a complete computer, and like the Pandora, it’ll do everything one of those Raspberry Pi laptops can do. The Wiz doesn’t have a keyboard, so [fbustamante] created his own. He etched his own PC, repurposed a keyboard controller from a USB keyboard, and stole the keycaps from an old Sharp digital organizer.

Speaking of portable consoles, [Element18592] built this incredible Nintendo 64 portable. He’s done an XBox 360 laptop and stuffed a Pi into an old brick Game Boy. This N64 mod is great, uses a 3D printed enclosure, and has truly amazing vinyl graphics.

To the surprise of many, [Photonicinduction] is not dead. The drunk brit with a penchant for high voltage electrics and a very, very confused power company is back making videos again. His latest video is a puzzle. It’s a plastic block with a light bulb socket, a UK power outlet, and a switch. Plug in a light bulb, flip the switch, and it turns on. Plug a blender into the outlet, and that turns on too. No wires, so how is he doing it?

Introduced at CES last January, Monoprice – yes, the same place you get HDMI and Ethernet cables from – has released their $200 3D printer. This one is on our radar and there will be a review, but right away the specs are fantastic for a $200 printer. The build area is 120mm³, it has a heated bed, and appears to be not completely locked down like the DaVinci printers were a few years ago.

Wooden Case Sega Saturn Laptop

CNC'ed Wooden Case for Sega Saturn

Remember the Sega Saturn? You know, that short-lived game system of the mid 90’s. Well, [c_mon] is still a fan and decided to make a portable version with a built in screen.

As you can see from the photos, the main case is made from wood, plywood to be exact. Several pieces of the plywood were cut out using a CNC Router and laminated together to achieve the full height needed to enclose the internal electronics. The finished case takes up a little less real estate than the original, however it is slightly taller.

You may recognize the screen as an old PSOne unit. The screen was taken part and housed in it’s own wooden enclosure which is hinged to the main case. The video is supplied to the screen by a composite output from the Saturn. There is no unique CD lid either, the screen functions as one when it is folded down. For sound there are a couple built in powered speakers that tap into the stock audio output.

To ad a little pizzazz, [c_mon] routed in a groove in the top to accept some EL wire. There are also some cool engravings in the wooden case, including the Saturn Automobile Manufacturer logo on the top of the screen lid…. whoops!

CNC'ed Wooden Case for Sega Saturn