Build Your Own Smartwatch or Google Glass with TinyScreen

Smartwatches these days cost $200 or more and look pretty generic. With a new Kickstarter project, you can build your own smartwatch for just $90 and customize it to your heart's desire. TinyScreen is a thumb-sized display that you can stick into a wristlet or tiny gaming console to create your very own wearable or mini-console. 

All you need to build your TinyScreen device (whether it's a smartwatch, pendant or gaming console) is stack the screen onto a processor chip (that comes with each package) and mount it in your preferred enclosure. TinyScreen's makers offer frames that you can buy, and you can also 3D print your own preferred housing. In a demo video, TinyScreen is seeing being used as a gauge on a bicycle, a pendant on a necklace and even on the corner of a pair of glasses a la Google Glass.

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There are several kits available depending on what you want to create, including packages for video player, robot control, video game and smart watch. Each kit comes with a different TinyShield (or enclosure) and extra goodies, such as mini joysticks or accelerometers and compasses, to make your TinyScreen more powerful.

The OLED display itself is 0.96 inches wide (diagonally) with a 96 x 64 pixel resolution with 16-bit color capability. You control the device via four push buttons (two on each side) around the face. TinyScreen also comes with an open source app for Android and iOS that lets you link the display to your smartphone or tablet. 

You can set TinyScreen to show your notifications via a Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy) connection. An onboard microSD card slot (in the Video Player kit) lets you stream videos directly within the display, but the clips have to be in a special GIF-like format (TinyScreen provides software to convert videos to the compatible format).

Those with more programming know-how can customize TinyScreen to do much more thanks to its open source app and Web-based programming support for the Arduino platform (which the TinyDuino processor is based on).

The TinyScreen display will come with Smart Watch, video player and video game apps so the device will pack some functionality even if you don't have programming knowledge.

With the $75 video game kit, you can also build the TinyScreen into a minuscule gaming console to play games such as Flappy Bird, although why anyone would do that is beyond us. The video game kit includes the TinyScreen, a TinyDuino processor, a Tiny Joystick and a lithium polymer battery.

TinyScreen's offering could put a full-featured computer on your wrist, with its open software and hardware. Seeing as smartwatch operating systems such as Google's Android Wear and Samsung's Tizen have yet to really take off, developers could find more joy in creating their own platform.

Staff Writer Cherlynn Low really needs a smartwatch because she keeps losing her dumb watches. Follow her @cherlynnlowFollow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.