Cute, compact and able to be positioned anywhere in the home with a power outlet, users wirelessly connect to the device via smartphones and the mini printer gathers the information they subscribe to, such as news headlines or messages from friends, then prints them on demand with the touch of a button in a tickertape-like format – a mini personalised newspaper – that’s easy to tear off and take on the go.
Users are then able to easily catch up on selected news and updates on the train or over breakfast, which Little Printer has conveniently clustered into one place and printed on hardcopy so readers can avoid having to wade through dozens of digital pages on smartphones (often getting lost in the information overload).
But why a printer and why paper when our world has become so digital? Matt Webb, CEO of Berg, a London-based design studio that specialises in product invention, including this one, says although web-connected devices are brilliant, connected to the web shouldn’t always mean being trapped behind a screen.
“I have been using Little Printer in my home and it works really well for the types of things I check my phone for a lot during the day,” says Webb. “My to-do list is a good example. I look at it 10 to 12 times a day but when it’s on my phone it’s not as easy to look at. Paper is like a screen that never turns off – so once it’s printed it sits there and reminds me of what I need to do. I could also tear it off and carry it around in my wallet or stick it to my fridge.”
The user tells the printer what to print by using a smartphone to subscribe to different publications, working in a similar way as the App Store. These publications can include, for instance, news headlines, a puzzle, picture of the day and birthday reminders.
Berg already has some publications that will be available when the product is officially launched later this year, including Arup, foursquare, Google, the Guardian and Nike. “We have an incredible group of launch partners, and in the run-up to shipping we’re working with them all on custom publications,” says Webb.
Berg is also keen to engage with developers and publishers. “We’re accelerating our development of the publishers API (application programming interface). We’re prioritising making Little Printer as easy as possible for publishers and service operators to integrate with their services,” says Webb.
In addition, the printer can also print short messages that have been sent from a friend’s smartphone. The white button on top glows when a message or new publication is ready and the user presses the black button to print it.
For those who may argue that ink is wasteful, Little Printer doesn’t actually use any ink. It is a thermal printer, which means it uses heat to transfer an impression onto specially coated paper. This paper is a standard width and can be purchased from a variety of shops. Berg will also be selling its own paper that, according to Webb, is of a better quality and comes from recycled sources. “If you print a delivery once a day, a roll of paper could last you two and a half months,” he says.
Underlying the printer is Berg’s new technology, Berg Cloud, which wirelessly connects and controls products centrally in the home. Little Printer connects (with no configuration) to a little black box – the Berg Cloud Bridge, which comes with the printer – that then plugs into the broadband router that connects to the printer’s ‘brain’ (Berg Cloud) on the web.
As a way of explaining the technology, Webb describes what happens when a friend sends a message to your Little Printer for you to print out. When this message leaves their phone it goes to Berg Cloud, which then turns the message into an image and sends it down
to Berg Cloud Bridge, which, through its wireless connection to Little Printer, will let the device know that there is a message to print and the light on top will glow ready to be pressed.
“The reason for putting all the electronics in Berg Cloud Bridge and not the printer itself is that at Berg we have an aspiration to make a family of connected products for the home, which Little Printer is the first of. And to do this we can make very simple products if we have this complex bridge in everyone’s homes. So this box will enable all of our future products,” explains Webb.
In the meantime, we can look forward to the official launch of Little Printer, which Berg is remaining quiet about, but we do know it will be later this year.
No doubt many people will be taken with this charming printer with its friendly face and little red legs. “I think that what we have achieved with Little Printer is creating something that people are happy to have in their homes,” says Webb.
To see more and watch the video, go to http://bergcloud.com/littleprinter