Interview-O: Gary Beaver of GHI Electronics Talks About FEZ Game-O

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In July, our regular Kickstart This! column featured GHI Electronics’ FEZ Game-O, a programmable hand-held console. Having managed to raise almost double their $5,000 goal, the FEZ Game-O was put into production and should start shipping this month. We caught up with Gary Beaver, Director of Operations at GHI, to see how he led a successful campaign, learn more about the FEZ Game-O, and see what the future might hold for the company.

Andrew Rainnie, Warp Zoned UK Correspondent: First of all, congratulations on your recent Kickstarter success with the FEZ Game-O open-source programmable hand-held console. It follows closely in the footsteps of devices such as the Raspbery Pi and the Bigshot by having a DIY component integral to the machine. What was the drive behind your device?

Gary Beaver: We love what we do and we wanted to create something that would encourage more people to learn programming and hardware design.

WZ – Andrew: You have the device under the “Fun Engineering” section of the GHI Electronics website. Is it your hope that you instill a sense of fun into people learning to program on the device?

Beaver: That’s exactly it, we wanted to create a handheld open source device that was programmed using a language that is widely used in the real word but fun to program at the same time. What is a better way to do that than a device that is easy to program and is extremely portable?

WZ – Andrew: Aesthetically the FEZ Game-O looks like a white Game Gear (although it is also available in pink and black). How did the finished design come to be? How many versions did the R&D team go through?

Beaver: We tried to create something that fits comfortably in your hand yet is versatile enough to allow for expansion through standardized sockets. We went thru four versions of the current console as seen on Kickstarter. However, after really great feedback from the community there will probably be a fifth version in the future.

WZ – Andrew: You led a successful Kickstarter campaign for the FEZ Game-O, receiving almost double the $5,000 goal. How did it feel when you found out you had been reached your target?

Beaver: We were able to hit our goal fairly early in the campaign which I think is a reflection of the all the hard work from the team at GHI.

WZ – Andrew: Could you give any potential Kickstarter campaigners out there some advice? And is there anything you would do differently regarding your campaign?

Beaver: Don’t get discouraged if the immediate results are not what you were looking for. Remember that the campaign will last for 30 days and that it should be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint.

WZ – Andrew: You just completed another Kickstarter campaign. Can you tell us a little about what it is for?

Beaver: Absolutely, we are creating an Arduino-compatible modular electronic building block solution for rapid-prototyping. We decided to call this solution FEZ Medusa. FEZ Medusa allows developers to use a standardized socket for connecting modules to a processor board. The processor board and connected modules are then programmed using the Arduino IDE which as you know is OS independent. Another interesting component of our Kickstarter campaign is our first stretch goal. We have added an interface board, called FEZ Lynx, which allows these same building blocks to be connected to any device with USB host capabilities like Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone just to name a few.

WZ – Andrew: Once again, thank you to Gary Beaver and his team at GHI Electronics.

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In addition to being Warp Zoned's UK Correspondent, Andrew Rainnie is a screenwriter and filmmaker. You can email him at andrew AT warpzoned DOT com or you can, if you're inclined, visit his personal website.

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