We present ENGAGE, the first battery-free, personal mobile gaming device powered by energy harvested from the gamer actions and sunlight. Our design implements a power failure resilient Nintendo Game Boy emulator that can run off-the-shelf classic Game Boy games like Tetris or Super Mario Land. This emulator is capable of intermittent operation by tracking memory usage, avoiding the need for always checkpointing all volatile memory, and decouples the game loop from user interface mechanics allowing for restoration after power failure. We build custom hardware that harvests energy from gamer button presses and sunlight, and leverages a mixed volatility memory architecture for efficient intermittent emulation of game binaries. Beyond a fun toy, our design represents the first battery-free system design for continuous user attention despite frequent power failures caused by intermittent energy harvesting. We tackle key challenges in intermittent computing for interaction including seamless displays and dynamic incentive-based gameplay for energy harvesting. This work provides a reference implementation and framework for a future of battery-free mobile gaming in a more sustainable Internet of Things.
Energy-harvesting devices have enabled Internet of Things applications that were impossible before. One core challenge of batteryless sensors that operate intermittently is reliable timekeeping. State-of-the-art low-power real-time clocks suffer from long start-up times (order of seconds) and have low timekeeping granularity (tens of milliseconds at best), often not matching timing requirements of devices that experience numerous power outages per second. Our key insight is that time can be inferred by measuring alternative physical phenomena, like the discharge of a simple RC circuit, and that timekeeping energy cost and accuracy can be modulated depending on the run-time requirements. We achieve these goals with a multi-tier timekeeping architecture, named Cascaded Hierarchical Remanence Timekeeper (CHRT), featuring an array of different RC circuits to be used for dynamic timekeeping requirements. The CHRT and its accompanying software interface are embedded into a fresh batteryless wireless sensing platform, called Botoks, capable of tracking time across power failures. Low start-up time (max 5 ms), high resolution (up to 1 ms) and run-time reconfigurability are the key features of our timekeeping platform. We developed two time-sensitive batteryless applications to demonstrate the approach: a bicycle analytics tool, where the CHRT is used to track time between revolutions of a bicycle wheel, and wireless communication, where the CHRT enables radio synchronization between two intermittently-powered sensors.
Energy-harvesting devices have enabled Internet of Things applications that were impossible before. Power failures are the norm for these battery-less devices, imposing a challenge to maintain a continued notion of time on these energy restricted devices. To address this challenge we introduce a novel time measurement architecture for energy harvesting devices. Compared to existing solutions, our solution not only improves the start-up time but also reduces the required energy to measure a duration of time.