I’m old enough to remember the original virtual pet craze back in the ’90s — Tamagotchi spread like wildfire through my public school. Since then, various toy makers have riffed on the original idea by adding wireless features and expanding what you can do with your pet. However, it wasn’t until Natalie Silvanovich started hacking the original Tamagotchi that I started to be interested in the concept again. This MSP430-based development kit for the PETI firmware is a really neat way to get into virtual pet development and hacking!
The kit includes two boards — the interface board, which has some debounced buttons as well as a hole to view the display underneath, and the rear expansion board, which contains almost all of the necessary parts to turn this into a truly mobile platform. It uses 2 AA batteries and supports NiMH, NiCd and alkaline batteries explicitly. You will need to provide your own MSP430EXP5994 as well as the BOOSTXL-SHARP128 display module, both available from your favourite distributor. Once you have the kit assembled, you can load the fully open-source PETI firmware and start playing around to get familiar with the environment.
If you want to get your hands dirty, you can help by contributing to the codebase and/or porting the code to another processor in the MSP430 family. Or, if you just want to play, you should get very good battery life because of the low-power processor and display technology used. However, it seems Arcana Labs has plans to release a fully self-contained version for casual play; it will be fully compatible with the dev kit, just stripped down to save power and miniaturize. If you’ve ever been interested in virtual pet development, this is a cool way to get started and help grow a new entry in the field!