First Battery-Free Interactive Device That Harvests Energy

“It’s The First Battery-Free Interactive Device That Harvests Energy From User Actions,” Said Northwestern University’s Dr. JosiahHarvests Energy Hester.

First Battery-Free Interactive Device That Harvests Energy

“When you press a button, the device converts that energy into something that powers your gaming.”

  • “Sustainable gaming will become a reality, and we made a major step in that direction — by getting rid of the battery completely,” said TU Delft’s Dr. Przemyslaw Pawelczak.
  • “With our platform, we want to make a statement that it is possible to make a sustainable gaming system that brings fun and joy to the user.”

The team’s device, dubbed ENGAGE, has the size and form factor of the original Nintendo Game Boy, while being equipped with a set of solar panels around the screen. Button presses by the user are a second source of energy.

Most importantly, it impersonates the Game Boy processor. Although this solution requires a lot of computational power, and therefore energy, it allows any popular retro game to be played straight from its original cartridge.

To ensure an acceptable duration of gameplay between power failures, the researchers designed the system hardware and software from the ground up to be energy aware as well as very energy efficient.

They also developed a new technique for storing the system state in non-volatile memory, minimizing overhead and allowing quick restoration when power returns. Harvests Energy

This eliminates the need to press ‘Save’ as seen in traditional platforms, as the player can now continue gameplay from the exact point of the device fully losing power — even if Mario is in mid-jump. Harvests Energy

On a not-too-cloudy day, and for games that require at least moderate amounts of clicking, gameplay interruptions typically last less than one second for every 10 seconds of gameplay. Harvests Energy

The team finds this to be a playable scenario for some games — including Chess, Solitaire and Tetris — but certainly not yet for all (action) games.

  • “Our work is the antithesis of the Internet of Things, which has many devices with batteries in them,” Dr. Hester said.
  • “Those batteries eventually end up in the garbage. If they aren’t fully discharged, they can become hazardous. They are hard to recycle.”
  • “We want to build devices that are more sustainable and can last for decades.”

The researchers will present their results this month at the UbiComp 2020 virtual conference.

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