Tag Archives: TinyScreen

1:1 interview with TinyArcade creator Ken Burns

TinyArcade is the most adorable video game console you’ve ever seen.

Recently, we had the chance to sit down with TinyCircuits founder Ken Burns, who just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign for the TinyArcade. Here’s what he had to say…

Ken Burns of Tiny Circuits

Josh Marinacci: Hi Ken. I’m one of the original Kickstarter backers of TinyCircuits and I love it. Could you tell us a little bit about TinyCircuits, why you created it, where it’s based?

Ken Burns: Thanks! TinyCircuits started as a side project while I was working at a contract engineering company. We would help other companies (from one person startups to Fortune 500 companies), develop electronic products, and prototyping was always a huge part of what we did. However, to create working prototypes usually involved creating a custom PCB (somewhat expensive and time consuming), or hobbling together a number of different development boards to create the proto, which was always ugly and usually too big.

So that’s what started the idea of a small modular system with a number of different sensors and options, and around the same time Arduino was becoming very popular so I decided to base it around that, which was the birth of the TinyDuino system. At the time it was just me in a spare bedroom of my house in Akron, Ohio, working on this and prototyping it up, but I showed it to a number of people and got a lot of great feedback, and decided to launch it on Kickstarter in the fall of 2012. The initial TinyDuino Kickstarter campaign did great, enough to convince me there was potential to create a business around it, so I left my job and committed to TinyCircuits full-time.

Three years later we’re still going strong, with a staff of 8 people and our own electronics design and manufacturing operation here in Akron, Ohio.

JM: One of our talented engineers recently built a Bluetooth wearable smartwatch using TinyCircuits. Have you seen a lot of adoption in wearables? What things do people build with it?

KB: That’s definitely a great project! Wearables is definitely something people use our stuff for a lot, it’s very small, compact, and easy to use, which makes it perfect for wearable applications. We launched the TinyScreen last year, which is a small OLED display that fits onto the TinyDuino and allows users to create add a very cool compact display to their projects.

Jewelry is one that a number of people have done, and some friends of ours are actually building out a 3D printed jewelry product based around our TinyScreen that should be launching early next year. Others are using our circuitry for wearable sensors, like for athletic and healthcare monitoring. And an eight-year old launched his own smart watch, the O Watchon Kickstarter to teach kids 3D printing and programing earlier this fall that is built around our stuff!


JM:Has anyone used your boards for a shipping product?

KB: A few small companies have used our products for very low volume items, but a few are designing products that integrate in the TinyScreen which will be higher volume. For low to mid volume items (one to a few hundred) it makes a lot of sense to buy products like ours to integrate with, since it saves the need to design a custom PCB and do the upfront engineering. After a certain volume it’s more cost effective to design a custom board, and we actually have helped a number of companies do that with our in-house design partner.

Josh: TinyArcade is absolutely the coolest thing ever. It’s a shame it won’t be ready in time for Christmas. Why did you decide to build this product, and why run it as a KickStarter instead of just selling it like your other boards?

Ken: Thanks! We would have loved to have it out by Christmas this year, but we needed to take our time over the summer to get the design right. The TinyArcade is really an outgrowth of the TinyScreen project we did last year, one of the things people really liked about it was that you could play games on it, and a number of our users started creating games for it, like Space Invaders, Outrun, Asteroids, etc.

In the spring we saw a really little arcade cabinet candy dispenser, and thought it would be cool to put a TinyScreen in it and play games, but the size wasn’t quite right. But the idea stuck with us, and we have a designer friend (Jason Bannister from mechanimal.com) design a 3D printed cabinet which came out looking incredible. We started showing this off at different shows, like Maker Faire Bay Area, and it was a huge hit, and people kept asking to buy it. So we decided to turn it into a product.


We redesigned the TinyScreen to bring the cost down and way crank up the performance, and add things like audio, joysticks, and an SD expansion slot. The 3D printed cabinet is also fairly complex and something that needs a commercial printer to make (it can’t be printed on a Makerbot), so the prints are expensive. So we came up with a laser cut enclosure that could be made for much less but still look like a cabinet, so we could offer this at a low price.

We’ve had great luck on Kickstarter in the past, and one of the big reasons we did this again is so we can buy the components in bulk. We’re still a small startup and cash flow is always an issue, so using Kickstarter lets us buy some of the major components (like the OLED, joysticks, etc) in volume to keep the cost down. If we did it without Kickstarter, the price per unit would have to be a lot more.

JM: Where did you find those tiny joysticks?

KB: Those are super cute, aren’t they?! We used some PSP type joysticks in the past for our joystick board, but these were too big for this. These joysticks are made by CTS and actually available at places like DigiKey, and work amazingly well. They’re great for very precise analog movements. They are one of the more expensive components in the TinyArcade, but definitely worth it.

The top of the joystick is actually a knob that we designed ourselves and is a high-res 3D print, using a resin printer, so we can make it just like an old style arcade joystick.

JM: Does the TinyArcade have room for expansion? I’d love to make one connected to the internet through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Will you support those options?

KB: It certainly does! This is still a TinyDuino type product and maintains expansion capability, and there is room to add another board in the cabinet. Bluetooth and Wi-Wi are the two that we definitely consider the most likely, and since the platform is completely open source, it’s really up to the user’s imagination as to what they want to add. Based on how well the Kickstarter goes, and if there is community support, we’d love to see the ability for some multiplayer games over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.


JM: With a Wi-Fi board, is it possible to do OTA updates?

KB: Right now we don’t have that capability, it really comes down to support in the bootloader. However we do support loading games and videos off a microSD card if it’s present, so it would definitely be possible to create a program to download files over Wi-i and save them to the SD card to use.

JM: What’s next for TinyCircuits? Any new products in the pipeline?

KB: We have a huge list of things in the pipeline that we would like to do, we actually have about 15 new expansion boards designed that should be hitting production early in 2016. One of the big push is into micro-robotics, so tiny servo drivers and motor drivers, new radio options, an ESP-based Wi-Fi board, many more sensors, and of course rolling out the TinyScreen+ board and the TinyZero processor board (basically the Arduino Zero, 32-bit ARM platform) which brings a new level of horsepower to the platform.

JM: Tell us a little more about the Kickstarter campaign and when do you expect it to ship?

KB The TinyArcade Kickstarter (successfully) ended on December 17th and we plan to start shipping in March 2016. The big reason for the delay is due to getting some of the key components in, like the raw OLEDs, this takes 8 – 12 weeks from our supplier, we plan to have the other items ready to go (the PCBs built, and the cases made), before then, so we can get shipping the moment they come in.

This interview originally appeared on PubNub’s blog

This necklace lets you play videos from its tiny screen

The Tiny Screen Necklace lets you watch movie clips, show off your artwork and more.

Chances are that you’ve watched a movie on the big screen, a small screen and even the screens of your handheld devices, but never before have you seen some scenes on such a tiny screen (try saying that five times fast) as the one on the wearable gadget devised by Margarita Benitez.


The aptly named Tiny Screen Necklace is exactly what it sounds like: a miniature screen that plays videos. The Maker, who happens to also be a fashion professor at Kent State University, created the project as both a piece of jewelry and video art that aspires to open a wide range of endless possibilities. As a recent OZY article points out, this can be anything from an artist broadcasting their work, a filmmaker showing off his movie trailer or a social media star having her Instagrams on a loop.

The idea for the necklace first came about following conversations with TinyCircuits’ Ken Burns, the inventor of the small and stackable electronics platform that can be found at the heart of this wearable unit. If you recall from its original Kickstarter debut, the TinyScreen is only 1.02″ x 0.98″ with a 0.96” viewable area that features a 96×64 OLED display and 16-bit color depth. The device was built to be personalized and programmed by a clever user base, much like Benitez, which is all made possible thanks to the ATmega328P driven TinyDuino.


What’s nice is that TinyScreen enables users to do everything from make a light blink to create a custom video game control console roughly the size of a quarter. Software processes the footage that is uploaded to the display embedded inside Benitez’s 3D-printed case. Typically, only a couple of lines of code are needed to get started.

In the future, the Maker hopes to not only sell her necklace, in both DIY and fully-assembled form, but open source its 3D-printable design as well. Benitez may even follow in the footsteps of TinyCircuits and launch a Kickstarter campaign of her own in the coming months. Until then, she remains optimistic about the future of wearable technology.  

“Maybe we’ll have clothing that can actually change patterns one day,” she tells OZY. “Media is always going to be everywhere, and if it can fit on your body, it will.”

Intrigued? Head over to the Maker’s official page here, and see the necklace in action below.

TinyScreen is a thumb-sized color display

With much of the tech community is abuzz about larger screen sizes, the TinyScreen is here to show customers just how adaptable a miniscule display can be in a world overrun by massive screens.


Led by Maker Ken Burns, TinyCircuits has successfully launched and funded its TinyScreen on Kickstarter. To say the immediate response was a positive one would surely be an understatement, as the device well exceeded its original $15,000 goal. (Garnered over $128,000!)


Generally speaking, form factor will dictate just the overall size of your project, and for those looking small, the thumb-size TinyScreen is certainly a go-to choice. In fact, there are a wide-range of uses for TinyScreen, ranging from DIY wearables like smart watches and glasses to gaming screens and joystick RC controls.


The screen itself is only 1.02″ x 0.98″, with a 0.96” viewable area that features 96×64 OLED display and 16-bit color depth. The device is built to be customized and programmed by the clever user base, both novice and expert. The team champions its one-click ability to download new programs and run them with little interuption. Even better, the TinyScreen comes with some incredibly useful programs, such as a clock display, already loaded onto the unit out of the box.


Customization is made possible thanks to the Atmel ATmega328P powered TinyDuino platform — also developed by the TinyCircuits team. According to its creators, TinyDuino is essentially a full-blown Arduino shrunk down to the size of a quarter, which not only is equipped with the same processor as the incredibly popular Arduino Uno but now includes an onboard Lithium battery charger and battery connector. “All of the shield signals are supported, so all of your existing Arduino sketches will work as is,” a company rep writes.

The TinyShields allow for unprecedented adaptability for these microscopic machines. “The platform is comprised of a TinyDuino processor board and multiple TinyShields which add special functions, like sensors, communications and display options,” the TinyCircuits team notes.

At the moment, there are over 25 TinyShields with more coming out every month — these are sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, 9-Axis IMU, ambient light sensor), output boards (motor drivers, audio output, displays), storage (SRAM, EEPROM, microSD card), communication (USB, Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, WiFi, 433MHz,802.15.4, Ethernet) and breakout boards to connect to external sensors and circuitry.


Recent shields released by the company comprise of a USB connector, a joystick as well as a Bluetooth LE transmitter. Good news Makers! TinyCircuits has also included 3D-printed watch enclosures which are readily available for those looking to download and print themselves.

TinyCircuits is currently seeking funding to expand production of the TinyScreen and have recognized that there may be an issue procuring enough OLED screens to meet customer demand. For more information about the TinyScreen or the TinyDuino platform, head over to the TinyCircuits home page or its recently-funded Kickstarter page here.