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TinyScreen – Watch Videos, Play Games Or Make Your Own Smart Watch!

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TinyScreen is a tiny customizable display developed by Tiny Circuits, Akron, OH based hardware startup. It’s the size of your thumb (96×64 OLED display). Using this screen you can play games, watch videos or make your own smart watch, it’s just like an electronic Lego.

Here you can support the TinyCircuits team and pre-order your own TinyScreen.

Below is our interview with Ken Burns, creator of TinyScreen:

Ken_BurnsQ: Ken tell us your story and something more about TinyScreen?

A: I started TinyCircuits just about 3 years ago on the side while I was working as a project manager / design engineer in a product design firm in Cleveland, OH.  We were a 50 person company, almost all engineers, that helped other companies develop a bring to market electronic products, and during my 10 years there I was involved in around 50 total electronic product designs.  During this time I had thoughts of starting my own company, with the initial goal to design and manufacture smart sensor modules that would be used in industry.  Starting down this path, I realized I needed somewhat of a common processing platform, and started to learn more about the open-source Arduino project, and determined it would be perfect for my needs.

I started on designing a miniature Arduino based processor board, and got more involved in the community and the open hardware movement, and started to shift the business towards making this modular system, that is Arduino based and extremely easy to use, and people can snap together like little electronic legos.  I showed the concept and early prototypes off to colleagues and friends in local user groups and hackerspaces, and got great feedback and suggestions on how to improve it.  In the fall of 2012, I launched the TinyDuino project on Kickstarter with a goal of $10,000 and ended up raising over 10x that.

This let us set up manufacturing in our hometown of Akron, OH to build up all of the products locally, and by the spring we were shipping out the Kickstarter rewards.  Things had taken off enough that I left my full-time job to focus solely on TinyCircuits, and we continued to grow and develop new products.

Earlier this year, we had developed a number of LED display boards for the TinyDuino which were really well received and we decided to do a board using a tiny OLED screen.  At first it was just going to be another standard expansion board, but when we started using the early prototype we realized that that OLED screen coupled with the small size of the TinyDuino made an extremely powerful platform.  So we decided to revamp our entire product line with TinyScreen in mind, redesigning the TinyDuino processor board to include a power switch and built in Lithium battery support, redesigning the USB TinyShield, and developing a new Bluetooth board with TinyScreen in mind for wearable applications.

Tiny Screen

Q: What was technically the most challenging part of developing TinyScreen?

A: The TinyScreen design is a bit of a departure due to the size of the OLED screen itself, which is a bit different from the standard TinyDuino platform in terms of size, so we reevaluated all of the existing designs to come up with a way we could accommodate the screen without increasing the size of the overall platform.  We went through several design iterations to get it sized just right, and decided to add additional features, like the 4 buttons along the side, which are perfect for wearable applications.

The other main difference is that we wanted the screen to be able to do things that most people don’t think a small Arduino type board could do.  The particular OLED screen that TinyScreen is based off of is actually used by a number of other people on Arduino projects, however the standard software support for this was way too slow for what we wanted to do.  We spent the time to redesign the Arduino software library from scratch for TinyScreen to be able to accelerate various graphics functions, including the ability to update the full screen at 30 frames per second, and be able to stream video from a SD Card.

TinyCircuit team

Q: With TinyScreen we can watch videos, play games or create our own projects, what is your favorite TinyScreen “project”?

A: The videos and games are really cool aspects that people can do, but neither of these are really groundbreaking.  What’s really cool to see are the projects that take advantage of the small size of TinyScreen, the wearable type applications like a smart watch, or a display that goes in a small handheld device.  We really gearing this around the Maker community, the people that like to tinker and create their own projects, and we’re really excited to see what people make using TinyScreen that we’ve never even thought of.

 Q: What is your message to TinyScreen Kickstarter supporters?

A: Thank you!  We got our start on Kickstarter 2 years ago, and really without Kickstarter there is no way we could have started this company.  With Kickstarter, we’ve been able to run this company without any external investment, that if we took this early on, would likely drastically change our mission and the products that we come out with.

This Kickstarter is letting us create a next generation of products that built upon the original TinyDuino idea, but takes it even further to let everyone create all sorts of cool stuff.

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