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Programmer turns pregnancy test into mini playable game console for 1993's 'Doom'

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Sep 7, 2020, 4:45 PM EDT (Updated)

Congratulations, Mrs. Grimm! It's...a Cyberdemon?

Programmer Foone Turing has taken the "Will it run Doom?" challenge to an entirely new level by transforming an ordinary pregnancy test (yes, you heard that right) into a playable mini console for the influential 1993 video game. It can even play the video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (sans audio) if you're in the mood for a past-its-prime internet meme.

"I got the idea because I was tearing one down (as I'd heard, the digital ones were just the analog ones, but with an optical reader). I looked up the microcontroller and it turned out to be surprisingly powerful, but not reprogrammable," Turing (whose surname fittingly refers to the test that gauges a machine's artificial intelligence) tells SYFY WIRE. "So I thought it'd be fun to get some parts and build one that COULD run Doom."

"The hardest part was probably modding Doom to generate a separate 128x32 pixel B&W display," Turing explains. "That required a bit of tricky coding. The displaying of the images on the OLED with the microcontroller was surprisingly easy. I was afraid I was going to have to figure out some complex compression scheme to make it work, but it turns out that 128x32 at 1 bit per pixel doesn't take up much bandwidth at all, so it streams from the PC just fine."

Of course, a standard pregnancy test is only good for confirming conception, so Turing only ended up using the object's gutted husk. One could say that the pregnancy test was (and forgive us for this lame pun) impregnated with electronic materials. 

"I put an Adafruit Trinket M0 into the shell, it's the only microcontroller I have that'll fit into that case," the programmer continues. "The new display is one of these 0.91" OLED 128x32 pixel displays. I had one on hand for another project (a FlashFloppy floppy disk drive emulator) and they're easy to control, so it was a good fit."

Still, if healthcare manufacturers (Alere, Quidel, Procter & Gamble, etc.) started adding video game displays to their own pregnancy tests, they'd probably see sales skyrocket. All we're saying is the next generation handhold console may not be from Nintendo. We just hope it's not urine-activated...

The project has since gone viral on Reddit and Twitter, garnering a good deal of news coverage. It's an eventuality that Turing describes as "amusing, because this is like the third part of the saga this week to go viral." However, it was the "modding in of basic animations" that really started to grab the public's attention. "Then I did streaming videos and that got big, especially the Doom one," the programmer adds. "[From there] I did the playable Doom and that got big again. So I'm continuing to play around with pregnancy stuff on the assumption that people are gonna continue to like it, but I'm sure it'll peter out soon."

As stated earlier, Turing's new and improved pregnancy test can't play audio...yet. "[It] isn't possible with the current hardware, but theoretically possible," Turing says. "I just don't have any speakers that are the right size to fit, and I'd need to stick an amplifier in there too. I might be able to get a tiny beeper in there or a weak headphone speaker, I'll have to try."

In terms of the future, the programmer doesn't "have any specific plans" to augment any other household objects. "This is kinda similar to something I've done before, where I mod kids toys into real keyboards, and I used some of the same techniques," Turing concludes. "I'm working on one of those too, making one of these into a real games controller. Hopefully that's plenty of stuff to pull from."

To see more everyday devices that have been retrofitted to accommodate Doom, check out the It Runs Doom! Tumblr.


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