Remember when cellphones were mammoth monstrosities back in the 80’s? We’ve come a long way since then, with devices clearly becoming smaller and at the same time more powerful. Well, the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 might be outliers, requiring a papoose or saddlebag to carry, but overall our gadgets are shrinking, while their power is multiplying. With this trend, we’re also seeing our mobile devices transition into the living room. Microconsoles are becoming increasingly popular, and thankfully more useful.

The Ouya debuted in 2013 as one of the first microconsoles, if not the first. Unfortunately, the mis-shapen cube console didn’t quite reach its full potential. The tiny box was a theoretical success, packing a huge punch inside a small footprint. Although it ran Android 4.1, app compatibility was sporadic, and the main detriment to the Ouya was the gaming selection.

The poor Ouya wasn’t a complete failure however, as an entirely new generation of microconsoles has since emerged. Streaming boxes like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and the Apple TV have skyrocketed in popularity, which has no doubt spurned the recent upsurge in microconsole development. Mad Catz’s M.O.J.O. offers an Android-based device with access to the Google Play Store, a huge improvement over the Ouya. It can also stream PC games to your TV. Similarly, NVIDIA’s Shield allows users to play Android games natively and stream PC games. Both the M.O.J.O. and Shield can be used for gaming, or as home media consoles.

What’s more, microconsoles aren’t relegated to gaming. The Tiga is a mini PC branded the “worlds’ first Duo OS (Android & Windows) Smart Home Automation Hub/Media Center/Mini Desktop.”  It’s a bit long-winded, but hey, their words, not mine. Summary: the Tiga is applicable to multiple projects. It’s useful as a media center, or for more practical means, like a home automation center. If gaming is your cup or earl grey, maybe opt for the Shield or M.O.J.O. Microconsoles have evolved from oddball gaming consoles like the Ouya to adaptable set-top boxes like the Shield, M.O.J.O., and Tiga.

If this trend continues, we’ll likely see an influx of microconsoles for both entertainment and practical applications. Heavyweight gaming guru Sony delved into the microconsole arena with the Playstation TV. Even larger consoles like the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have evolved into media centers rather than pure gaming devices, and microconsoles fit a much needed niche. They fulfill gaming and media needs while maintaining a low cost and small footprint. Even the Raspberry Pi has seen microconsole iterations thanks to RetroPie.

Want to see more microconsoles, or dismissing this as a passing fad? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!