Why you should care
Screens are everywhere, even in the world of fashion. Welcome to the age of ubiquity.
Movies: We catch them on the big screen, the small screen and the screens of our various electronic devices. But what about tiny screens? Movies take on a new meaning when they’re shrunk down the size of a quarter … and worn as jewelry.
The Tiny Screen Necklace is exactly that: a necklace with a tiny screen that plays videos. It’s jewelry art that doubles as video art, offering the ultimate in personalization. An artist could broadcast her latest work. A filmmaker could load his movie trailer on a loop. You could bling out your Vine while sharing it with the world.
The necklace (prices start at $125) was created by Margarita Benitez, a fashion professor at Kent State University. The design came out of discussions with Ken Burns, whose Akron-based TinyCircuits firm wanted to showcase its tiny video screens for a Kickstarter campaign highlighting its miniature, stackable electronics platform (more on that later). Burns got press for his version of a smartwatch, his DIY version of the next big tech trend. Now Benitez is working to bring her design to Kickstarter this year on its own. “Media is always going to be everywhere, and if it can fit on your body, it will,” she says.
You can make a light blink, or create a custom video game control console about the size of pocket change, or smaller.
Think of the electronic components as fancy Legos, using an open-source electronic platform called Arduino. You can make a light blink, or create a custom video game control console about the size of pocket change, or smaller. For the moving image, software processes video that can be uploaded to the tiny screen. Film a dog running, upload it via the software to the screen embedded in the case Benitez designed, and Fido can chase your collarbone all day long in the battery-powered device.
The necklace is an intersection of trends. First, personal electronics are moving toward ubiquity and smallness. Then there’s maker craze, where home-grown tinkerers do it themselves, often with a tech bent. Benitez, who hosted a how-to workshop at the Smart Fabrics + Wearable Technology conference in San Francisco in May, hopes to sell the necklace, but she also wants to offer downloadable designs for people to 3-D print, and specs so they can design their own. She envisions offering designs that range from print-your-own kits for $20 or less per case (not including the screen) to fully manufactured gold leaf.
But not everyone has a 3-D printer next to their laptop. And there’s a fashion cohort who see such efforts as novelty more than serious styling. “I think it’s really an interesting design,” says Sandra Markus, a professor who teaches technology and fashion, and includes maker projects in her classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. But she’s not sold on the power of digital accessories to transform life, or even just fashion. And that tiny screen is really small.
Still, Benitez is optimistic about the future of wearable tech. “Maybe we’ll have clothing that can actually change patterns” one day, she says.