March 2, 2011

Other People’s Projects: Gameduino, Laser Cutter v2

My RSS feeds dumped two really intriguing products into my lap today: an Arduino-compatible shield that produces VGA output, and an open source laser cutter.

The Gameduino is a VGA output device that can be driven by a microcontroller. It outputs a 800x600 display in 512 colors. It's powered by an FPGA (I haven't yet been able to determine which one) and has a host of pretty cool features:

  • video output is 400x300 pixels in 512 colors
  • all color processed internally at 15-bit precision
  • compatible with any standard VGA monitor (800x600 @ 72Hz)
  • background graphics
    • 512x512 pixel character background
    • 256 characters, each with independent 4 color palette
    • pixel-smooth X-Y wraparound scroll
  • foreground graphics
    • each sprite is 16x16 pixels with per-pixel transparency
    • each sprite can use 256, 16 or 4 colors
    • four-way rotate and flip
    • 96 sprites per scan-line, 1536 texels per line
    • pixel-perfect sprite collision detection
  • audio output is a stereo 12-bit frequency synthesizer
  • 16 independent voices 10-4000 Hz
  • per-voice sine wave or white noise

Really cool. Graphics are sent to the Gameduino over a SPI bus. I was thinking of building something similar in the future for a project, but I wouldn't have included many of the features that this device has. The builder has some sample videos up that show the power of this little gem. It's really, really cool stuff! Definitely click on the sample images to see just how powerful this platform is.

The Gameduino is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. I pleged $53 which should get me an assembled and tested unit from the first production run. Well worth it! (I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. The Kickstarter project has a goal of $3,333 but has already raised over $10,000 in pledges with 27 days to go!)

The other project is 2.x Laser laser cutter. This is a homemade laser cutter design shared under a Creative Commons license. I haven't looked at in detail yet but I suspect I'll be building one of these. Even if it costs as much as a commercial unit (~$2,000), it'll be worth the fun and the experience to build my own.