Cool FPGA board lets a Gameboy Advance control robots and more!

The Xport installed on a GBA in a robot
With the upcoming release of the Nintendo DS Lite, my GBA SP will be heading to the “infrequently used” pile. This might give it new life.

Here’s an interesting gizmo that could be used for all kinds of things. It’s called the Xport 2.0 and it’s basically an FPGA development board that’s built to interface with the Nintendo Gameboy Advance series of handheld gaming systems.

The board has a Xilinx FPGA along with some flash memory, SDRAM, and various support components like pin headers for the digital I/O. Features, according to the manufacturer:

  • Fully programmable FPGA with 50,000 or 150,000 logic gates
  • 64 user-programmable I/O signals
  • 4 Mbytes (32 Mbits) of flash memory
  • 16 Mbytes of SDRAM (optional)
  • Built-in high-speed communications and debug port
  • Free FPGA synthesis software
  • Several pre-tested logic configurations
  • In system programmability
  • Open source software
  • Source level debugging
  • Comprehensive software distribution

With this setup, you can use the GBA as a sophisticated embedded controller with a color screen, sound, and other features that may make your projects more enjoyable and also feed the feature-creep monster that exists in nearly any project. It’s definitely not going to be as cheap as your normal microcontroller, like a PIC or AVR, but if you need the full-blown C/C++ environment, a beefy hardware platform, display or other features, the Xport might be something to consider at $159 or $199, depending on the FPGA, plus the cost of a used GBA.

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