The Little Printer runs counter to the austerity of most gadget designs: It has a face that reprints every time you get your new newspaper. (Here: The female version of the face.)

Initially, the design concepts were more anthropomorphic, and featured arms and legs. Eventually, Berg settled for a more subtle approach. The tiny "legs" serve as a tray for the print out. (Here: the male version of the face.)

Initially, the design concepts were more anthropomorphic, and featured arms and legs. Eventually, Berg settled for a more subtle approach. The tiny "legs" serve as a tray for the print out. (Here: the male version of the face.)

The interactions are dead-simple: Just a print button. And if you have multiple newspaper editions backed up, it’ll print only the most recent one--an effort to quiet the din of our social feeds.

The Berg Cloud, a small networking device, is meant to become a platform for more devices. As Shulze says, "There were cheaper ways we could have made Little Printer work." But they’re focused on avenues for new products.

You manage feeds through an elegant iPhone app.

You manage feeds through an elegant iPhone app.

The Little Printer can be used to manage to-do lists and reminders…

…as well as news feeds and tiny little diversions, such as crossword puzzles.

Berg says the Little Printer is part of their studio’s ongoing obsession with bringing technology out of the office or personal spaces, and into the "front room"--that is, into the physical spaces were we socialize.

It's Finally Out: A Little Printer That Delivers A Tiny, Custom Newspaper

Just a printer? No way. It’s a taste of the cloud-connected, low-fi appliances to come. Co.Design gets an exclusive first look.

Every toaster has a personality. It’s warmth. Tradition. A smell of comfort and childhood and maybe a wisp of burning. The average smartphone can do things the average toaster could never dream of--talk to satellites and crunch millions of calculations a second--but somewhere along the line, an appliance became a gadget.

The Little Printer, by Berg London, manages to bridge some undefined gap between these disparate worlds. It’s a super efficient, cloud-connected printer capable of ticking off everything from your GCal to your friends’ tweets. It’s also the first printer you’ve ever seen that sits in the living room and draws its own face.

“There’s a slightly nightmarish vision of a world full of glistening, super high-rez Retina Displays all over your house, a sort of Total Recall world where everything’s a TV,” Berg’s Jack Schulze tells Co.Design. “These objects have to live in your home, connected, but they can’t all be ringing and pinging, winking and flashing all the time. They have to be kind of calm.” The Little Printer is the first of what Berg plans to be a whole line of quieter, cloud-connected devices that sit in very public places in your home or office, to be shared by everyone like a television. It’s decidedly low resolution, using cheap, thermal paper (commercial receipt paper that needs no ink and sells for 50 cents a roll).

Though the Little Printer can seem a bit baffling, it’s really a quietly different paradigm for technology: It’s a hack of old technologies, aimed at creating a calmer vision of social networking. It’s a limited device that’s meant to fit into our day rather than demand attention. As Shulze points out, amid the din of contemporary tech, "There’s room for shared objects and content that moves a little slower."

“Twitter has become very important even though it’s quite a tight, constraining medium. Instagram has become a more important part of my life than Flickr. It didn’t feel that inappropriate to choose such a low-fi medium for a domestic product,” Schulze says. “Traditional printers, obviously they’re very useful, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to print a two-line email with a phone number on it, and then, you have to get this dialog box with a preview in it, and then you print it, and it says do you realize some cropping will occur, and you think, ‘I just want to print this.’ For owning a printer, you’re really reluctant to print.”

With cost-to-print concerns completely mitigated, the Little Printer can be guiltlessly tasked to keep track of all sorts of information--digital Post-Its that Berg says sit somewhere between ephemeral and permanent objects. Much like a DVR, the Berg Cloud Bridge is a box that plugs into your router and manages online subscriptions from Berg’s content partners (Google, The Guardian, foursquare, and Arup). Each person in a household can create a custom newspaper by managing those subscriptions on an iPhone app. So whenever Mom leaves for work at 7:30, the printer can have current news headlines, a "mini newspaper," waiting for her to read on the train, along with a crossword. When Dad takes the kids to school at 8:30, his daily to-do list could be ready at the door, along with popular pictures from his Instagram network.

The Big Challenge For Social Gadgets

As simple as scheduling may sound, it’s one way that Berg is solving what they consider one of the most daunting problems in our connected lives today--expanding our single-screen devices connected to very personalized (and personal) Facebook accounts to live in real environments, accessible in more natural, analog-interactive social situations. Their other solution is geographic cue, to label the Little Printer in Berg Cloud as "kitchen" or "living room," reminding users that these are public devices as they sign up for subscriptions.

“There is no current model for those [social] accounts to deal with small groups,” says Schulze. “We have to be completely honest, it’s a challenge that we’re tackling. I haven’t got an answer where I can just say ‘it’s completely wrapped up, this is how we deal with it’ … [but] the person that solves this problem in a clear technical way is going to be a serious competitor.”

Of course, all of this is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo and design philosophy that’s skirting the most obvious elephant in the room: The Little Printer has a face. In fact, every time it prints a new chunk of information, it actually reprints its face to sit in a carefully shaped metal profile. “Industrial design in the consumer electronics market is littered with a history of things … how many VCR players used to have that blinking 00:00 on it, like no one knew how to set the time?” Schulze reasons. “You never really wanted to engage with them.”

But in the next 10 years of home products, engagement is only becoming a more and more important point. The everyday objects that Berg is interested in, from remotes to washing machines, will be loaded with incredible networked capabilities. Friends. Recommendations. Did-I-Add-The-Soap notifiers. It’s a collective level of capability beyond any existing expectations--what Berg calls character--that will need to be defined earnestly in product design.

“If you think of something like a Roomba, it starts to feel difficult to think of it as a remote control Hoover,” says Schulze. “There are behaviors inside the Roomba. You sort of know what it will do but you can’t predict exactly how it will do it. I think the objects will need change to manifest that character. I don’t think it will be okay to have it be completely invisible. It’s conspicuous that the Roomba doesn’t look like a normal vacuum cleaner. It’s a new style of object.”

So, yes, Berg built a printer that draws its own face because they built a printer that’s more connected, more social and, sure, a bit more adorable than any built before. Our beloved quirky appliances--our Kitchenaids and Bodums--and our soulless silicon-loaded metal and glass--our iPhones and every clone--may at last be finding a post-dot-com equilibrium. Our toasters will be smarter, and the cloud will be more personable for it.

Little Printer is on preorder now for $259. The Berg Cloud Bridge and international power supplies come included at no additional cost.

Buy it here.

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22 Comments

  • scottdaris

    Another ridiculously overpriced 'low-tech-is-in' item, like designer craft food such as artisan jam for 18 bucks (my mémére taught me how to make if for pennies).

  • Overtherainbow

    *FACEPALM* Why is there so much pointless design featured? Cute, expensive and close to pointless. This for people with too much money.

  • Minime

    Was there is a reason to include the word "cloud" 5 times in this article?! Oh, wait it's a cool word to say and makes your product more "valuable" nowadays. So, here it is... I am sending this note out in the cloud and hope it will appear on your site (hosted in the cloud) for all the other cloud user to see...

  • Daniel Demmel

    For the haters: you can get BPA free paper and it's partly so expensive because it comes with the Berg Cloud Bridge which as far as I know will be able to handle multiple devices.

    That said, I'd never pay this much for it myself either, but I don't think it's realistic to expect it to be much cheaper. Building it yourself would set you back by around £100 + labour. I know because there's an open source version with a detailed component list ( https://github.com/freerange/p... ) and this doesn't have a case, wireless, all the years of design love, the content agreements, the online service component and so on.

  • James Dabbagian

    It's a nice idea, but $250 for that little thing is absolutely absurd. 

  • LD

    Was interested until I realized they use receipt paper. I'd be concerned about the exposure to toxic BPA which killed it for me

  • Guest

    Yep, agreed. Until thermal paper is BPA- (and BPA-alternative) free, this is a non-starter. 

  • tcliff1

    My eyes are turning to s4!t from staring at all my screens. This is a great idea and alternative, but no way in hell am I paying $300. Get it under $100 and I'm all over it.

  • jones19876

    I recall seeing this last Spring and thought "cute and pointless", and hey, it's still pointless but the $260 totally killed the cuteness factor.

  • monirom

    I hate to say it but, as a design object its pretty neat.

    As a useful tool its a waste of resources; time, money, paper, energy etc. SO many better ways to spend your hard earned cash - be it altruistic or indulgent.

  • AmyOhMy

    I almost feel stupid for being surprised that this thing is prohibitively priced...Something that touts a "low tech" appeal should understand the value of a low tech price, right? Apparently not. $300US for this is outrageous especially considering that regular printers are practically (or literally) given away these days. When we can we stop putting a premium on good design?

  • Don't Save Face

    The face thing is pretty stupid. If you could customize it, I would consider buying it. But I'd hate to look at that every time I printed something. Waste of paper, waste of opportunity to look at something that I want to look at.

  • Invoice

    The real cost of a traditional printer are in the toners and paper. This sounds more like an investment to me. 

    I'm just wondering if it can be paired with invoicing technology. That would make my invoicing that much cheaper and easier. 

  • WasteNotWantNot

    ehrm...I have to agree with Puzzled.  At this price I could buy 2-3 "standard" printers, dedicate one to a customized format of my own choosing, and use (more environmentally friendly) regular paper...

  • breakingeven

    Being on a screen all day but having all my information in the cloud, I like that this way, I'll be able to go low tech but aggregate the information I do have online into one useful sheet. Going to wait until the price goes down a bit though.  

  • Gekinjehoofd

    Sounds like fun untill you part with your cash and a month later find out that you don't use the damn thing at all