Norwegian startup company FXI has demoed a clever USB/HDMI stick designed to add Android-based smart capabilities to any HDMI or USB-equipped device. Codenamed Cotton Candy, the inconspicuous USB flash drive-shaped dongle packs quite powerful hardware, including a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU and a quad-core GPU that handles 1080p video. Think of it as perhaps the world's smallest screenless computer.

Described as a sort of bridge between a display and input peripheral, Cotton Candy allows devices to access online services, run apps, or play multimedia files anywhere suitable for the user. The only requirement is a display with a USB or HDMI port (in this case, a USB power cord is needed as well) and a separate input accessory, such as a Bluetooth keyboard.

Cotton Candy is also suitable as an accessory for smartphones, tablets and laptops. The company apparently believes that users would like to access the Android system even on those devices that normally run a different OS, such as Windows or iOS. Along with Android 2.3, Cotton Candy also comes preloaded with Ubuntu.

The prototype is equipped with WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, 1GB of RAM, a micro SD slot supporting up to 64GB cards, as well as a USB 2.0 male connector and HDMI 2.1 with audio for devices without USB mass storage support. Multimedia file support includes up to 1080p resolution MPEG4-SP/H.263/H.264 AVC/MPEG-2/VC1 video files, MP3, AAC, AAC+, Real Audio formats and JPG, GIF, BMP, and PNG graphic files.

The stick is powered via USB, which means an additional power source is needed only if connected through HDMI. Given its numerous features and powerful hardware, Cotton Candy's weight and dimensions are pretty impressive, at 21 grams (0.7 oz) and 2.5 x 8 cm (0.9 x 3.1 in).

FXI is currently providing sample prototypes of Cotton Candy to its business partners from various industries including hardware, mobile phones, and in-car entertainment. There are no details regarding the price, although it is rumored to be under US$200. The company expects the unit to be introduced somewhere in the second half of 2012.