It’s a little late in the year to be spotting tech trends, but from the looks of it, tiny is huge right now.
Just in the past week, I’ve witnessed all sorts of online excitement over the Vphone S8, a Chinese-made smartphone with a sprawling 1.54-inch display and one button. I’ve experienced greatly disproportional excitement over Blips — tiny plastic lens overlays that turn smartphone cameras into pocket-size microscopes. I’ve repeatedly asked Santa to fetch me one of the teeny-tiny little Game Boys recently presented at this year’s Hackaday Superconference. I’ve developed an insatiable hunger for the microculinary innovations of Tastemade’s “Tiny Kitchen” series. And, for a more conceptual extension of this recent obsession, the tiny bot-generated art galleries, cities, and forests created on Twitter by musician and artist Emma Winston must be explored.
As this shortlist may have demonstrated, tiny can often equal cute, and cute can serve as shorthand for silly. But some of the tiniest bits of tech this year stand to have massive implications.
Take the tiny personal computer known as Raspberry Pi. It’s not much to look at — just a palm-sized motherboard with an assortment of exposed connections and ports. But for just under $40, the newly released Raspberry Pi 3 packs some serious punch: It’s got Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, ports for USB (four of them), HDMI, Ethernet, and a micro SD card, as well a gigabyte of RAM and connections for cameras, audio/video, and displays. Even smaller are the Raspberry Pi Model A+ and the Zero — each a fraction of the original Pi’s size, and designed for use in embeddable projects. (Like, say, building a voice-controlled fireplace.) The Pi has already gotten strong footing in the education realm as a low-cost way to provide access to classrooms, but as computers and their users get craftier (see the rising popularity of Arduino components), the Pi could make a big splash in the mainstream over the next year.
Another little big deal is the forthcoming PogoCam, a tiny camera that can easily attach to any pair of eyeglasses outfitted with a clever (and subtle) magnetic strip. From there users can shoot up to 100 photos or 12 10-second 720p video clips. As Snap Inc. (formerly Snapchat) starts rolling out its camera-equipped Spectacles, there’s a chance that face-mounted cameras like the Pogo will experience a boom similiar to the now-ubiquitous GoPro. That the Pogo can attach to a far wider range of eyewear styles may give it a leg up in the months to come. It’s due out in March or April of 2017, and will retail for $129.
Anyone who has ever hoisted a selfie stick in public has probably (hopefully) felt a touch of shame for wielding a tool so clearly bound for anachronism. They’re clunky, tacky, cumbersome, and — if AirSelfie takes off — soon to be obsolete. Currently in Kickstarter incubation, this tiny aluminum frame camera-drone tucks away in a special smartphone case until you slide it out and dispatch it to the air, where it can be piloted through a companion app with three different flight modes and simple controls. The AirSelfie can reach altitudes up to 66 feet and stay airborne for up to three minutes. It sports a 5-megapixel camera for still photos, shoots HD video, and features 4GB of memory for onboard storage (shots and videos can also be transmitted via Wi-Fi). AirSelfie isn’t the first selfie-centered drone out there, but it’s among the most portable and practical that I’ve seen. I’m not a gambling man, but any technology that expands the bounds of narcissism this profoundly is destined to hit it big.