Nano that isn’t nano

Trying to know what actually is and is not nano these days is a tricky, tricky business. Even more so when toy manufacturers are tossing nano around in their product names willy-nilly. That’s right, I said willy-nilly. And I meant it.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of nano, as provided by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Copyright 2000 and updated in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company:


1. often nanno- Extremely small: nannoplankton.
2. One billionth (10-9): nanosecond.
[Greek n nos, nannos, little old man, dwarf, from nann s, uncle.]

Definition #1 seems to be the umbrella under which toy companies are dancing with carefree, obtuse, spelling-oblivious, product-naming delight. Definition #2 is far more specific a term, and one that the fine folks over at NISE Net are trying to help the public understand – as it has far-reaching consequences (both positive and negative).

And so, in the spirit of playfulness, we offer a tiny sampling of toys labeled nano (sans second ‘n’) that are not, at least under definition #2 above, nano:

Hexbug Nano – Micro Robotic Creatures
“Putting the ‘micro’ in Micro Robotic Creatures”

Hexbug Nano
Hexbug NanoCourtesy Hexbug

It’s nano! It’s micro! It’s, it’s, it’s....technically neither. Just small.

Zing AquaGlider Nano
“micro size & mega fun”

Zing AquaGlider Nano
Zing AquaGlider NanoCourtesy Zing

Described as nano and micro and mini. I wish they also found a place for the word “wee” on their packaging. “Wee” is both highly underutilized and adorable.

Nano Dots
“magnetic constructors”

NanoDotsCourtesy Nano Magnetics

Again, couldn’t find anything technically nano about this particular product, although Nano Magnetics did create a bucky-ball-resembling structure in their video.

And last but not least,

Nanoblock “micro-sized building blocks” / “magnetic micro constructors”

NanoBlockCourtesy NanoBlock

Is it nano? Is it micro? Doesn’t matter, because they have the Kinkakuji Temple!

They’ve also been kind enough to provide a truly baffling video to help illustrate that they’re not all that interested in message – they just want you to build stuff:

Keep your eyes peeled, kids, for more nano that isn’t nano. We can bring this back as a regular feature, or even play the “is it really nano?” game – who needs labeling laws when guessing can be this much fun?!

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