PlayStep Mini – Making a $10 thing to replace the $700 version

The PlayStep Mini is a tiny device that allows a parent to limit screen time from any HDMI device based on “charging up” energy using an exercise stepper.

Github sources here

This explains what it is

But why tho?

According to the CDC,  kids aged 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of screens.

While rationing time is good, in the real world sometimes parents need additional tools to help keep kids fit.

In 2019, I made the PlayStep, an open source program that runs on a Raspberry Pi that allows a kid to power the screen with exercise.  Years later, we still use it for one of my kids!

But I guess I’m the only person on earth using it, even though it’s open source.  I don’t know why, I mean it only costs around $700 in hardware and low level knowledge of linux command line stuff…

Oh, you want something more reasonably priced and easier to use?

Behold: The Playstep Mini!

The differences are this:

  • No cool video mixing, just on and off
  • Zero latency
  • Extremely power efficient (uses 30ma directly from the input HDMI’s 5v power)
  • Standalone and easy to use
  • Can be made for under $10 (plus exercise stepper that you might already have)

If this is something you’d be interested in buying as a kit to use, well, leave a comment, I can buzz you if myself or someone else ever offers it for sale.

If you’re someone who knows if it’s legal to sell something like this as a kit without certification of any kind, uh, also please let me know.


Won’t a kid just disconnect it and play without exercising?

If mine did, he knows he’d probably lose gaming altogether for a week at least so it’s never been an issue here.

Is it safe? Will my kid get a leg injury from too much exercise?

Please use common sense and adjust the ‘time energy’ per step, step resistance on the machine, and “max energy level” to something that is safe. Uh, if your kid is limping around you should definitely disconnect it.

Consult your doctor or whatever so I don’t get sued when your kid is skinny but with two herculean calves.

Can I get some made from JLCPCB and give them away or sell them?

Sure, I don’t care, do anything the GPL license allows. I could switch it if there is a reason.

You freaking used pcb auto-routing with HDMI? My Eyes! My God man, I would love to help you do it right

Hey, I’m a beginner! But that is very nice of you to offer to help improve it, you glorious human.

This version works great for 1080p, but the board layout is too stupid and noisy for 4k to work.  I guess I should stop using auto routing and get rid of all the HDMI vias by using more layers or whatever?

If you can help me work on this and you’re ok with its open and free hardware license, please check out the github project.

2 thoughts on “PlayStep Mini – Making a $10 thing to replace the $700 version

  1. Pingback: Spawning annoying black holes in Fortnite to force a kid to exercise | Code Dojo

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