Inside Game Boy Camera
It's a camera! It's a game! It's hackable! Hmmmm...
The Game Boy Camera is available right now for fifty bucks. It can take and store 30 black and white images, and has an impressive collection of fun image manipulation tools. Images can be flipped, mirrored, and stretched. You can draw on them, or stamp them with a wide variety of clip art and fonts. You can combine four images to make a wide (or tall) panorama. And you can set it up to do time lapse with interval adjustable from 1 second to 1 hour. You can combine images to make a montage or animation. You can add notation to each image. And you can put your face onto a game character in three included games. You can print out your creations using an accessory printer, or transfer them to another game boy (equipped with the camera) using a serial link cable. There's even a music editor which allows you to compose your own music. And all this is done the way Nintendo does things: it's fun and funky. Every screen has a different musical theme (you can choose from 30 different musical backgrounds to accompany you animation). And there are all kinds of weird graphics for each sub-menu. 
Hackability?
Now that I've got the description of what it is out of the way, let's roll up our sleeves and see what it could be...
It can hold 30 pictures in battery backed ram. That implies at least 64k bytes, but after a peek inside, it looks like it has 128k bytes!  Hmmm... The impressive collection of image manipulation tools , along with fonts, clip art, and other images implies that there may be as much as 1 M byte of rom. Each unit has a unique ID number accessible from a menu. The ROM is not programmable, so the ID must be in battery-backed ram. With the camera disconnected from the board, the connector might be used for general I/O for data acqisition or control. Hmmmm...
The camera itself is in a rotatable spherical pod, about 1.25 inch in diameter. It contains a 16-pin sensor with a Mitsubishi logo, labeled 282 81DH. This part is not a CCD chip, but a new device from Mitsubishi, M64282FP, the "Artificial Retina".Not only can sense an image, but it can process it as well, doing such things as edge detection. It connects to the board in the cartridge with a 9-pin connector, and probably could be extended  for remote viewing. Hmmm...

Click here for specs on the artificial retina chip , provided by Benjamin Green.

  The camera itself is quite sensitive and can create a good image in low light. It can even detect infrared, and take a picture by the (IR)light of a TV remote. Again, hmmm...
Even if we don't chop the thing up, it is still hackable, by figuring out the protocol for image transfer. Then you could upload images to be printed or put up on web pages, maybe even aimated GIFs! Once more, hmmm...

More info is available on transfering GB images via a cartridge reader on Jeff Frohwein's GameBoy Site

Download GB camera images to your pc using a Game Boy Link cable and Pocket Printer Emulator


Here's a list of the major chips inside
 


Another hackable, and inexpensive (under $50 refurbished) ccd imager is the Connectix QuickCam. It is a grayscale camera which connects to the pc through the printer port, and can be used for snapshots, movies, and videoconferencing. It uses a Texas Instruments TC255 ccd imager, and is documented on the web at numerous sites:
QuickCam drivers
QuickCam internals
Inside the QuickCam
Using QuickCam for astrophotography

What does this have to do with Game Boy Camera? Nothing. But I received a number of inquiries about using the GB camera (or its sensor) for robot vision or astrophotography. The QuickCam is just as cheap, already interfaced to a parallel port, and documented. But we need to keep digging and find out as much as we can about the GB Camera.


Please email me with questions, comments, or info.
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