With platforms such as mobile phones and Nintendo's lineup of handheld devices, gaming has moved from living rooms to almost anywhere. So far, the only caveat it brings to the table is battery life, which can be bothersome for players who do not like being hooked to power outlet most of the time. Although a portable power source is an easy fix, experts have allegedly developed a game system that no longer relies on batteries. Instead, the Engage gets its power from the user.

The team behind this unique project is using a Nintendo Game Boy as a form of inspiration. In fact, the device is supposedly compatible with the portable console's cartridges. Nostalgic gamers can finally rummage through their collection and play vintage titles as long as they want. The Engage was developed by a collaboration between researchers from Netherlands-based Delft University (TU Delft) of Technology and Northwestern University in the United States.

"It's the first battery-free interactive device that harvests energy from user actions," explains Northwestern University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Josiah Hester. "When you press a button, the device converts that energy into something that powers your gaming." Given that it is still in the early stages, the prototype still comes with several limitations.

The Engage does not currently have a way to produce audio and the system that harvests power from button presses is far from being efficient. Hence, the creators reveal that there are random instances wherein the handheld console will shut off. As a workaround for this issue, the developers have integrated an automatic save state function.

This allows users to continue their progress exactly where the game left off before it lost power. Battery technology still has a long way to go before it will no longer be considered an environmental hazard. TU Delft assistant professor Przemyslaw Pawelczak noted: "Sustainable gaming will become a reality, and we made a major step in that direction by getting rid of the battery completely."

University researchers create a battery-free portable console
The team behind the unique Engage project is using a Nintendo Game Boy as a form of inspiration for the device. Photo: TU Delft

Those hoping to see the Engage in retail stores soon should know that it exists only as a concept for now. Once scientists eventually discover a process to harvest energy from the player's mechanical actions. People who are interested to learn more about it can do so at the UbiComp 2020 conference a little over a week from now.