October 25, 2017 // 10:30 a.m.
The creator of the Arduino-compatible Gamebuino handheld console, Aurélien Rodot, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce its successor: the Gamebuino Meta.
Launched on Indiegogo back in 2014, while Rodot was still a student, the Gamebuino proved a smashing success with more than 1,000 percent of its modest €3,141 goal raised from backers. Built around an Atmel ATmega microcontroller loaded with an Arduino-compatible bootloader, the Gamebuino made the most of its limited specifications - a 16MHz 8-bit processor, 2KB of RAM, and a monochrome 84x48 pixel display salvaged from recycled Nokia mobile phones - by encouraging users to develop their own titles using the Arduino IDE. These games are then loaded onto a bundled micro-SD and can be flashed onto the microcontroller at will, while the small screen and modest specifications meant anything up to a full day of play from a single charge of its 300mAh lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery.
The Gamebuino Meta, by contrast, is a very different beast. While borrowing the pocket-friendly landscape layout and two-button control system from its predecessor, the specifications of the Gamebuino Meta have received a significant boost: The 16MHz 8-bit ATmega328 microcontroller has been replaced with a 48MHz 32-bit ATSAMD21G18 Arm Cortex M0+, the RAM boosted from 2KB to 32KB, and the display swapped out for a larger 160x128 full-colour LCD. Even the controls have been overhauled: Where the original Gamebuino used four independent switches with standard buttons for its control pad, the Gamebuino Meta uses a true four-way D-pad. The system is also shown playing original Gamebuino games with full backwards compatibility.
While the system has increased in complexity, Rodot claims it is still very much a DIY and educational system at heart. The team behind the new console have partnered with unnamed but 'well-known' programming schools to develop courses based around the Gamebuino Meta which will cover everything from developing a Pong clone to building a handheld artificial intelligence (AI). These courses, however, are not yet available, with a launch planned following a closed beta period.
The Gamebuino Meta is scheduled to ship in February 2018, or December 2017 for the limited Early Bird reward level, priced at €79 (around £71 inc. VAT) for the console alone or €99 (around £89) as a bundle with the console, micro-SD pre-loaded with games, laser-cut wooden skin, a developer backpack, and what Rodot describes mysteriously as 'surprise gifts'. More information is available on the official campaign page, which is seeking to raise €33,164 - equal to the final total of the original campaign - with nearly €5,000 raised so far and 59 days to go.