µGame (Micro Handheld)

Discussion in 'Everything else' started by matej, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. matej

    matej Still Fresh

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    Hello.
    There is very cute micro handheld (like Sega VMU or Nintendo Pokemon Mini on steroids) called µGame.
    It is based on Atmel SAM ARM (ATSAMD21, 48mhz, 32kb ram, 2mb flash, 128x128 LCD, 8bit mono audio). Main developing platform is Python (CircuitPython/MicroPython) but it is ARM so C, C++ etc is possible too... It works on Nokia battery for hours.

    How it looks like:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    More specs here:
    http://ugame.readthedocs.io/en/latest/

    Hackaday:
    https://hackaday.io/project/27629-game

    Discord:
    https://discord.gg/yesAnGR

    Tindie Shop:
    https://www.tindie.com/products/deshipu/game-10-game-console-kit/

    Soon there will be case + buttons (I am case designer).
    There will be website with forum in future too!
    Please join Discord, Hackaday maybe you can do game, app or some HW for it, case modding...
     
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  2. Linux-SWAT

    Linux-SWAT Hardcore Member

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    It's a sexy little device.
     
  3. AVahne

    AVahne Handheld-obsessed

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    Oh that is adorable! First image looks difficult to play with, but second one looks okay.
     
  4. levi

    levi Still fresh, damnit!

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    I'd like to see the back of that unit before calling it a handheld. There might be all kind of things you could accidentally bridge with the palm of your supporting hand, and even if it is all a well insulated ground plane, you still need a power source in your pocket to play it.

    These things seem to be designed to live out most of their lives in a drawer, rather than being a fixture of your going out bag. I guess not having a battery or a plastic case means there's less wastage when this does inevitably fall out of use at least though, so there is that. You do say that a case holding a battery is coming next, in which case that microUSB on the very edge of the board seems an issue, but I'm still not convinced this will receive many ports of games, sporting only 32kb of RAM. It's like a fantasy computer made in about '89 then shrunk down, but without any of the economies of scale, or sizes of communities willing to pay real money for software. As I said before, it may be more efficient to buy it uncased if you think you'll like it, because then if you stop using it before the case comes out, you can just not buy that, and not contribute that to the global waste island in the specific ocean (sic).
     
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  5. Ian J

    Ian J Advanced Member

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    Screen reminds me of the screen in a PC Engine Turbo Express with it's low resolution.

    Looks a bit small though even for my lady-like hands.

    EDIT:

    I still would get one though if a reasonable selection of software comes out for it.
     
  6. levi

    levi Still fresh, damnit!

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    That seems to be the problem with some of these things. The company making the PocketChip has apparently now gone under, so the only units of that around are the ones already in existence, and software-wise it already seems to have declined, at least judging by the videos I can find on youtube (the last one I could find was someone building hydracastlelabyrith from pitiseb's repo that the pandora build came from ;) ).
     
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  7. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Administrator Staff Member

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    Oh, cute :)
    If you need a reseller in Germany, let me know :)

    Sent from my Moto Z using Tapatalk
     
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  8. matej

    matej Still Fresh

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    Thank you for nice comments.

    @EvilDragon - I will tell main developer about it!

    Its not so small. Actually same size of buttons (with better clicking feeling) as Arduboy plus bigger colorful lcd screen. PCB is smaller thats true but I will do case + buttons/dpad that will fits perfectly into hands...Its really like Sega VMU or Pokemon Mini or Sony Pocket Station type of console...

    Here is Pokitto vs. Arduboy vs. mGame...
    [​IMG]

    @ Levi - first version of case will be done soon (this summer) also there will be choice to have it from eco-plastic (bio deg. material). Or stronger from recycled ABS...Also there will be CAD file for printing / modding your own case (I like local economy)...
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  9. deshipu

    deshipu Radomir Dopieralski

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    Hello, I'm the initial author of this small device — I created an account to answer the questions asked here.

    First of all, the photo of the back, without and with the battery installed: (Sorry, I tried to post a photo here, but the forum tells me it's spam, you can see the photo of the back on the hackaday page of the project.)

    As you can see, you have the programming/debugging interface there, the connectors for the battery (the board has lipo charging circuitry on it), and four unused GPIO pins broken out. You can also see a lot of vias in there, and indeed, I had a lot of problems with the early prototypes, where touching, or even putting your finger close to the audio circuit would result in buzzing, and touching the display lines would result in graphics glitches. That is why the final version has the audio circuit moved next to the display, out of the reach of fingers, and the video signals all routed on the top side of the PCB — the vias you see are the buttons and power lines. Of course, you would still get a short circuit if you placed it on a metal surface.

    With the battery attached (I recommend a BL-5B Nokia battery, but pretty much any phone battery of the right size will work) you have pretty much the whole back covered, so there is no longer that problem.

    There is also a simple case designed by one of the users to be 3D-printed, that solves this problem permanently.

    You are right that this is not yet a product designed to carry in your pocket. I sell it as a kit, where you have to add the battery and attach the display yourself (no soldering required), mainly because it's my hobby project, and I don't have the resources to do all the certifications for a proper product, or make the molds for a proper case. The whole point of the console is that it is programmable easily with Python (it comes up as a USB drive when you connect it, and you just edit the files on it), and I am targeting people interested in learning to make simple games, rather than playing classics on an emulator, etc. Frankly speaking, the hardware is not really that interesting — it's pretty much equivalent to Gamebuino, with a SAMD21 MCU and ST7735R display. You could probably even port Gamebuino games to it, if you wanted, but that's not the point — the point was to make it super-easy to start making games with Python, without having to install anything on your computer, and with being able to take it with you and show your friends.

    This is a very early time in the life of the project, and I'm still working on the software: we have two simple game examples to prove that the idea is viable (a platformer and a space shooter), and a getting started tutorial showing a how to write a bouncing balls demo. A lot more work is required to make this fly, and that is slowly being done by people interested in it — Matej is working on a better case, I'm still optimizing the CircuitPython firmware and working on more games, there are people experimenting with programming this with Arduino and MicroBlocks too. Generally speaking, it's an exciting time, but nothing can be said yet where the project will go from here.

    Finally, while I certainly appreciate the offer of re-selling it, I'm not sure the project is ready for that. I'm selling it on Tindie, and I'm shipping it from Switzerland — so pretty close to Germany anyways — and I prefer to deal with all the people who buy it directly, so that I can help them with any problems, and improve the documentation and software in the process. I only have about 150 of them, with about half of them sold already, and I would prefer that most of them go to people who are genuinely interested in writing games, rather then people looking for yet another toy.

    Perhaps if the idea really catches and there is interest, I will make some kind of crowd-funding campaign for it, get the money for the certifications and cases and what not, and turn it into a proper product that can be used as a toy, but for now it's more of a developer kit, sorry about that.
     
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  10. pmprog

    pmprog Advanced Member

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    I've been keeping my eye on this, but I'm not really a Python fan, and I think it's a bit too small for me.

    ftfy. Part of the problem (IMO) is the sheer quantity of these devices, and they're all different; and as there's not a massive end-user audience with these devices, they never become anything more than a tinker device for a few devs.
     
  11. deshipu

    deshipu Radomir Dopieralski

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    Do you feel they should become something else? What would that be? If there was only one, do you think it would become that?
     
  12. Ian J

    Ian J Advanced Member

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    I thought this might make a nice little audio player but it only has mono output, pity as the buttons look easy to access when in your pocket.
     
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  13. ClockworkCoder

    ClockworkCoder Chaotic Neutral

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    I was disappointed to hear about PocketCHIP. I think part of the issue there is that it's also apparently hard to update/modify the firmware.

    I do like these style devices and that their often aiming to help (young) people get into programming and hardware, and in a similar way to the the first generation of home computers.

    I don't feel that any project has _quite_ lived up to that golden age, but a few have come close IMHO. I think it boils down to both being easy to pick up and use/program for, while at the same time (for longevity) allowing easy update/modification of the firmware and related software that isn't reliant on a single source/server.

    Unfortunately for me, this project doesn't quite hit the spot as it's a bit too small (form factor) and I'd rather be using c++ than Python. However, Python is a good choice for new programmers.
     
  14. pmprog

    pmprog Advanced Member

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    No, and please don't let me dissuade you from continuing. I think your project is great. I've often thought about trying to build my own computer - whether it be with off-the-shelf components or digging into FPGA.

    My comment was following on the conversation about software availability
    If you're not running a hardware independent platform like Linux, where projects can be recompiled for the different hardware from a single code base; you need developers. Unless you have an end-user base ready to consume their software, most will move back to established platforms, but to draw in the end users, you need software.
    I'm not saying you won't have devs hanging around producing great stuff, but if there's nobody there to use it, they'll probably fade away.
    That's just the way I see it, as a developer and an end user.
     
  15. deshipu

    deshipu Radomir Dopieralski

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    It would make a horrible audio player. Not only is it mono, but also there is no audio jack and the speaker is 4mm in diameter (with ~3mm membranne), which means that anything other than simple bleeps and bloops is pretty distorted. Also, I'm not sure the 48MHz with software floats is enough to decode mp3 in real time.
    --- Double Post Merged, Jun 5, 2018, Original Post Date: Jun 5, 2018 ---
    Fortunately I'm not starting from scratch, and Python actually gives me some portability. I have an earlier project, that used a 8x8 LED matrix as a display, letting you make simple games like tetris or snake, and I already got the games for it to run on the µGame — I just need to polish the library a bit and include it in the firmware by default, and then the number of available games magically doubles. I have also ported the libraries to a number of other devices, so you can play the game on an ESP8266 with some buttons and display connected, or on an M5Stack (I still need to handle the larger resolution of that one somehow), etc. — if any of those catches on, the games will all be compatible without modification. Of course I have no illusions about this happening within a year or two — most likely I will be the only developer making games for this for a while, and I will just keep chipping on it slowly. Which is completely fine for me, as I don't plan to become rich and famous with it, I just wanted for something like this to exist.

    I don't think this kind of homebrew handheld device will ever stand a chance against the smartphones for the general public. It will always remain a niche toy.
     
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  16. comradekingu

    comradekingu Glowing ember

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    It could be a design icon or the de-facto device of this type.
    For a standalone thing like a bike-computer the form factor could work.
     
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  17. Ian J

    Ian J Advanced Member

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    I did say it was mono, re the speaker I was thinking more as an mp3 player not a boom box, but yeah in it's present hardware configuration it would be a horrible audio player.

    Maybe a high quality mp3 player with physical controls is something @EvilDragon could look at making as a side project, the Pandora sound quality still stands up today.

    Are there many users out there today that use a portable music player and want physical controls? I know I do but maybe I'm a dying breed and touch-screen is where it's at.
     
  18. matej

    matej Still Fresh

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    Game Gear:
    Z80 3,5mhz, 4ch. audio psg 8bit mono, 160x144x4096 lcd, 16kb vram, 8kb ram...

    Games looks like:


    It has VDP - video processor unit for sprites, scrolling like in Sega Master System was. But on other hand mGame got 48mhz 32bit ARM cpu power... So nice 8bit / 16bit like games can be done...

    For music player.Maybe not mp3 but some chipmusic/8bit or MOD music player can be done.

    Small factor is good. You can play anywhere. In work during windows 10 update, in school during not interesting lessons, in tram, bus, train, in bed near your girlfriend (small lcd = less light)... Maybe during bike trip too but you needs to be pro rider...

    Homebrew / DIY is good. Look at RPi or Pyra/Pandora scene or indie scene... Games/apps are sometimes more amazing as from official developer. I mean more original.

    Baremetal (no OS) can be good too for oldschool like console philosophy looks at SNES, MD... Your games will be more optimised to hardware...
     
  19. deshipu

    deshipu Radomir Dopieralski

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    I use SanDisk's Sansa Clip Zip with RockBox installed, and it actually works very well both as a MP3 player (which it was designed to be), and as a simple game console (you can write games as plugins for RockBox, there is even a gameboy emulator and Doom).
     
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  20. levi

    levi Still fresh, damnit!

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    The specs don't say if it's mu-law, a-law or linear 8-bit audio. I've played 128-bps non-vbr mp3s on an old strongarm based computer with 8-bit mu-law audio, and you could tell what the tune was, but it was hardly hi-fi. That was a Risc PC so while the CPU ran on it's little daughterboard at a touch over 100MHz, it only had a tiny cache, and was hampered by the narrow slow system bus as the only way to get to RAM or the hard disc, so this 48MHz beastie might be better at it that that machine was.

    But if it's linear PCM then all bets are off. Back in the early 90s when 8-bit audio was the best there was everyone was either using mu-law (mostly europeans) or a-law (the americans), but these days who knows?
     
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