Slime Mold-Powered Smart Watches See Humans Fall In Love With The Goo

Humans are very good at anthropomorphising things. That is, giving them human characteristics, like ourselves. We do it with animals—see just about any cartoon—and we even do it with our own planet—see Mother Nature. But we often extend that courtesy even further, giving names to our cars and putting faces on our computers as well.

A recent study has borne this out in amusing fashion. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that human attitudes towards a device can change if they are required to take actions to look after it. Enter the slime mold smartwatch, and a gooey, heartwarming story of love and care between human and machine, mediated by mold.

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A modern Tamagotchi PCB design and built-up prototype

Classic Tamagotchi Is Reincarnated In Modern Hardware

If you thought that Tamagotchis were a late ’90s fad that has faded from most people’s memory by now, you’d be wrong: the franchise is still alive and well today, with new models being released regularly. But even the original model from 1996, known as Tamagotchi P1, is being kept alive by a small group of enthusiasts. When ROM dumps of the original hardware began floating around the internet a couple of years ago, even those without the real thing could run these virtual pets in an emulator.

But the whole idea of the Tamagotchi hardware was that it was portable enough to carry around anywhere. If you’re among those who missed that part of the Tamagotchi experience, you’ll be pleased to know that [JC] designed OpenTama: a portable hardware platform that runs an emulated version of the original Tamagotchi P1 software. It’s about as close as it gets to those first-generation virtual pets, but with several additions that make your life easier.

The software platform is [JC]’s TamaLib which we featured last year; in effect it’s an open-source emulator that allows the Tamagotchi ROM to run on a variety of modern hardware platforms. It also contains several additional options like the ability to save and restore your progress or to select customized ROMs. The OpenTama hardware, meanwhile, is a proper 21st-century reimplementation of the original: a small, egg-sized PCB sporting an STM32 microcontroller driving an LCD or OLED display, powered by a 100 mAh battery that can be recharged through a USB-C port.

OpenTama is not limited to the TamaLib software, either: as an open-source general-purpose platform, it can also be used as a learning tool for embedded programming, so if you’ve always wanted to program your own virtual pet, or are simply looking to build a fancy egg timer, OpenTama’s GitHub page is the way to go. We’ve seen quite a few neat Tamagotchi-like projects recently: this 3D-printed one comes with a nice retro LCD screen, while this one’s giant size ensures you don’t forget to feed it.

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The PawPet board in a 3D-printed case, with a d-pad on the right and four buttons on the left. On its small monochrome screen, there's a cat-like pet looking at you.

Reject Modernity; Return To Tamagotchi

Browsing through the recent projects on, we’ve found this entry by [NanoCodeBug]: a single-PCB low-power trinket reviving the “pocket pet” concept while having some fun in the process! Some serious thought was put into making this device be as low-power as possible – with a gorgeous Sharp memory LCD and a low-power-friendly SAMD21, it can run for two weeks on a pair of mere AAA batteries, and possibly more given a sufficiently polished firmware. The hardware has some serious potential, with the gadget’s platform lending itself equally well to Arduino or CircuitPython environments, the LCD being overclock-able to 30 FPS, mass storage support to enable pet transfer and other PC integrations, a buzzer for all of your sound needs, and an assortment of buttons to help you create mini-games never seen before. [NanoCodeBug] has been working on the hardware diligently for the past month, having gone through a fair few revisions – this is shaping up to be a very polished gadget!

There’s no wonder that people love to start Tamagotchi-like projects – something special happens when an electronic device invokes the same feelings that we’d get while caring for our own pet, and this project does justice to the idea. With homebrew Tamagotchi projects, there’s a trend – once hardware is finished, the software doesn’t always get to a usable stage, feeling more like an afterthought. There’s a hacker twist that should help us subvert this trend, however – [NanoCodeBug] has shared all sources with us in a GitHub repository! If you would like to help with the “software” part, you can start working on that with just a few breakouts. The board files are also there, if you feel like the boards are marvelous enough for your liking to go through modern-day component sourcing pains.

Hackers have been playing with the “pocket pet” concept here and there, to delightful and unconventional results. If you’re on the lookout for other serious Tamagotchi recreation projects, this one takes the cake – otherwise, check out this furry Tamagotchi-like Tribble pet, disarming in its cuteness! If you’re one of our mischief-minded hackers, we have two posts to keep you entertained – one about dumping ROM on newer Tamagotchi toys, and another about building a WiFi-cracking one. And when it comes to the spirit of “what we have on hand” builds, this giant desktop-sized LED matrix Tamagotchi fits the bill pretty well!

Tamagotchis Everywhere

Tamagotchi’s relatively simple technical complexity pales in comparison to its huge cultural impact, with over 76 million sold. It has spawned comics, stories, numerous toys, and offshoots such as an anime and two films. [JC] was looking through some of his old stuff and came across a Tamagotchi P1 (the original Tamagotchi) and decided to create a portable emulator for it. The ROM for the P1 has long been dumped and can be run within a MAME emulator. After all, it’s just a 32MHZ E0C6S46 Epson MCU, 32×16 LCD with 8 additional icons, three buttons, and a piezo. The manual for the MCU is even available on Epson’s website. Here at Hackaday, we’ve seen Tamagotchis many times before, such as the infinite matrix of the Tamagotchi Singularity and a ROM dump of the latest generation of Tamagotchi based on a 6502 core.

So what’s different about what [JC] is trying to accomplish? For starters, the tooling. It is divided into two parts: TamaLIB and TamaTool. The first is a hardware-agnostic P1 emulation library that relies on a HAL layer to communicate with the hardware. The second is a frontend for the first, allowing debugging, RAM editing, and modifications to the ROM. In particular, it supports easy modification of images within the ROM and allows for custom eggs and Tamagotchis. The homage to the Jolly Wrencher is nice.

Given that the emulation is platform-agnostic and access to a low-resolution timer is not guaranteed, cycle counts become tricky. The rather clever solution [JC] stumbled upon was synchronizing against input polling, screen updates, and sound output. TamaLIb keeps track of how many CPU cycles have passed and regularly checks if the emulation is going too fast or too slow. Slowing down or speeding up the simulation allows it to seem to run in real-time.

The last goal [JC] had was to run it on embedded hardware. Using an STM32F072 board and a cheap OLED screen had a portable emulated Tamagotchi known as MCUGotchi. The code is available on GitHub and should work on most STM32 MCUs with a few small tweaks. Now that someone has gone through the effort to make it easy to run a Tamagotchi literally anywhere, it might not be long until we see a coffee maker or a smart light acting as a Tamagotchi. Perhaps the new joke will be, can it run Tamagotchi?

Video after the break.

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The Trouble With Tamagotchis…

The must-have toy of a couple of decades ago was the Tamagotchi, a virtual pet in an LCD screen on a keyring, that demanded your attention and which would die were you to neglect it. Fortunately it had a reset button on the back through which it could be resuscitated, but even so it lacked a satisfying tactile experience. [Nadine] has done something about this with her Tamagotchi-style Tribble, an anthropomorphic ball of fluff that demands attention and purrs when it receives some.

Inside the ball of fake fur is an Adafruit Circuit Playground with a capacitive touch pad and a haptic motor. After a random time with no attention it “cries”, and its owner strokes it, after which it responds with a purring vibration. It’s quite cute as you can  see in the Twitter video below, and fortunately it won’t multiply and fill up your starship. We wonder whether a small resistive heater to give it a body temperature would complete its appeal as a virtual pet.

Given the popularity of Star Trek TOS among Hackaday readers perhaps it’s surprising that we don’t see more Tribble related projects. They have made a notable appearance as a DEF CON badge though.

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Put An Open Source Demon In Your Pocket

Back in 1996, the Tamagotchi was a triumph of hardware miniaturization. Nearly 25 years later, our expectations for commercially designed and manufactured gadgets are naturally quite a bit higher. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be impressed when somebody pulls off a similar feat in the DIY space.

The Xling by [dsl] follows the classic Tamagotchi concept. A little creature, apparently inspired by the demon from Netflix’s Disenchantment, lives in your pocket and needs occasional attention to remain healthy. The user pushes a few buttons to interact with the creature displayed on the display to do…whatever it is you do with a pet demon. Feed it souls and what have you.

But unlike the iconic 90s toy, both the hardware and software for the Xling are open source. The CERN-OHL-W licensed PCB was designed in KiCad and features an ATmega1284P microcontroller and SH1106G controller for the 128 x 64 OLED display.

Power is provided by an AP3401 DC-DC converter, MCP73831 charge controller, and a 400 mAh 3.7 V battery. Everything fits inside of a 3D printed case that looks like it could easily hang off of a keyring.

While the hardware is admirable enough, the software side of things is quite interesting as well. The Xling is running on a FreeRTOS kernel ported to the ATmega, but the GPLv3 licensed firmware sill needs some work. Right now only a few core functions are implemented, and [dsl] is hoping to get some ideas and feedback from the community so his dream of a fully open source demonic Tamagotchi can finally be realized.

Build enough of them, and you might even be able to implement another virtual pet Singularity. But to be safe, maybe you shouldn’t.

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A Tamagotchi For WiFi Cracking

OK, let’s start this one by saying that it’s useful to know how to break security measures in order to understand how to better defend yourself, and that you shouldn’t break into any network you don’t have access to. That being said, if you want to learn about security and the weaknesses within the WPA standard, there’s no better way to do it than with a tool that mimics the behavior of a Tamagotchi.

Called the pwnagotchi, this package of artificial intelligence looks for information in local WiFi packets that can be used to crack WPA encryption. It’s able to modify itself in order to maximize the amount of useful information it’s able to obtain from whatever environment you happen to place it in. As an interesting design choice, the pwnagotchi behaves like an old Tamagotchi pet would, acting happy when it gets the inputs it needs.

This project is beyond a novelty though and goes deep in the weeds of network security. If you’re at all interested in the ways in which your own networks might be at risk, this might be a tool you can use to learn a little more about the ways of encryption, general security, and AI to boot. Of course, if you’re new to the network security world, make sure the networks you’re using are secured at least a little bit first.

Thanks to [Itay] for the tip!