Arduino unveiled a new preassembled board today called the Esplora, which includes a variety of sensors and controls already assembled, allowing aspiring game programmers to quickly and easily get up and running with functional hardware out of the box, without having to break out the soldering iron. It includes light and temperature sensors, an accelerometer, four push buttons, a joystick and a slider, as well as visual and haptic feedback via an LED and buzzer. Users can play games with it using the free Super Tux Cart game on their computer right away, but the real promise is in the creative potential it hopes to help users unlock.
The Esplora can emulate traditional input devices like a mouse or keyboard, and Arduino envisions it being used for applications beyond gaming, including as a controller for musical software, or as something to help with creating digital 3D models. The Esplora is extensible, meaning additional sensors and other hardware components can be added on, should a user feel like doing a little more hardware hacking, and Arduino promises a color LCD module will follow, meaning enterprising developers can actually use it to create their very own open source mobile gaming console, like a do-it-yourself GP2X or Pandora, names anyone in the emulation/home-programming set should recognize.
Others have created Arduino-based handheld gaming consoles in the past, but doing so involved a lot more hardware hacking than you’ll have to do with the Esplora pre-configuration, which comes with essentially everything required to get up and running with Nintendo-style simplified gaming. Given even more of a head start than those who have created similar devices in the past on their own, I’m excited to see where creativity takes those who decide input devices on this new platform.
Arduino Shields, like the Xbee wireless communicator, aren’t compatible with the Esplora out of the box, but any existing Arduino software should work with the new pre-assembled controller. It sells for €41.90 or €44.90 depending on whether you want the standard or the retail version, and both come with an included USB cable.