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Arduino Compatible TinyArcade by TinyCircuits

You can check out the TinyArcade at TinyCircuits. If you really dig this product, check out our podcast where Michael sits down with the founder of TinyCircuits, Ken Burns. Among various topics, Ken talks specifically about how he came up with the idea for the “TinyArcade”.  Still digging these tiny things? Check out our free tutorial on the TinyDuino made by TinyCircuits.

Continue below to read our TinyArcade tutorial / review!

Arduino Compatible TinyArcade

Do you remember the days of old, dropping all your quarters into video arcade games? Weren’t they pretty fun? Have you ever dreamed of having your own arcade game cabinet? Well, now you can! Although this one is a little bit smaller. Introducing the TinyArcade cabinet built by a company called TinyCircuits.

 

TinyArcade by TinyCircuits

The TinyArcade is built out of pre-cut acrylic and powered by the same microcontroller used by the Arduino zero. In fact, the TinyArcade is completely Arduino compatible. You can play classic arcade games that have already been written for it or you can even write your own using the Arduino IDE.

So what’s in the box? Here’s the big stuff:

  • 3 games pre-loaded for immediate play (Flappy Birdz, Tiny Shooter and TinyTris)
  • 1 microcontroller board with a powerful 32-bit ARM processor
  • 1 micro SD card slot
  • 1 full color OLED screen
  • 1 cool little joystick with 2 working push buttons
  • 1 built in speaker with volume control
  • 1 rechargeable lithium battery
  • 1 micro USB port for charging the battery AND loading Arduino sketches
  • Some snazzy stickers

 

Items included in the TinyArcade box from TinyCircuits

 

The coolest part is that it comes as a DIY kit. Assembling it yourself really adds to the fun, and it allows for further learning as you can develop and upload your own Arduino sketches to the TinyArcade.

Setup Walkthrough

First thing’s first, read the directions. They’re super simple and straightforward. Here’s a general overview:

STEP 1

On the processor board, make sure the power switch is turned off and the audio switch is turned on. It won’t blow up if you don’t, but hey, the instructions recommend to do it.

 

Processor board from TinyArcade

STEP 2

Electronics assembly:

  • Connect the screen to the processor board with the provided flex ribbon cable
  • Connect the speaker to the processor board
  • Connect the lithium battery to the processor board (the connectors should go in easy, if they don’t you may have them upside-down)

STEP 3

Do a quick check to ensure everything is working properly. Switch the power on and you should see the screen boot up. It should be in the “game selection” menu, and you should hear a beep. It’s alive!

 

Initial boot up sequence on the TinyArcade

 

STEP 4

Cabinet assembly. Now is when the instructions recommend you add the stickers. This is the most convenient time because it’s a bit tougher after it’s been assembled.

TOP TIP: You can leave the stickers off and see if you like the “naked” look where you can see the electronic components inside. If you prefer the classic “arcade” look, you can always disassemble the cabinet, adhere the stickers, and reassemble.

Actual assembly is very straightforward if you follow the instructions.

STEP 5

Fire it up and enjoy your games! If you want more games, the TinyCircuits website has 16 games you can download from a zipfile. Here’s a link to their games, and here’s a link to a zipfile that includes all the games in one download. You will need to load the games onto a microSD card. There is not one included, so if you don’t have one / can’t find one, TinyCircuits sells them here, along with an adapter in case your computer doesn’t have the microSD slot. If your computer doesn’t have the standard SD slot either, you can google “USB to microSD card adapter” and pick one up for a couple bucks.

Grab that zipfile and unzip it to the top level of the file directory on your microSD card. You’ll see there are now 16 folders, and each folder’s name corresponds to the the title of a game. Don’t worry if you have other files on the card, i.e. the card does not have to be blank. Just as long as those game folders are on the top level you’re good to go!

Lastly pop the micro SD card into the card reader on the back of the TinyArcade and power it up. Using the joystick you can scroll between the games, and you can select a game using the left push button. Bam! You’re playing an Arduino friendly video game!

If you want to play a different game just restart the TinyArcade and make your selection.

Why we love it

  • The controls are surprisingly comfortable and responsive. You have solid control with the joystick, and the two push buttons are spaced far enough apart that you can push them independently using your thumb or finger.
  • Because it’s 100% Arduino friendly, it allows you to upload your own sketches and provides serious learning opportunities programming your own games. The scope of THIS tutorial does not include game creation, but TinyCircuits provides an excellent tutorial article here which will guide you in developing your very first game.
  • You can watch videos on it! All you do is convert an .mp4 video using some free software, upload it, and select video player and voila! You’re watching videos on your TinyArcade. Anybody up for watching Tron on the TinyArcade??

 

Tutorial from TinyCircuits on how to develop a simple games for the TinyArcade

 

So get out there and start enjoying the TinyArcade! Play games, develop games, and watch movies!

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