Headless Raspberry Pi setups are pretty common, and are well-suited to the tiny computers. Most people already have other computers (or their smartphone) on hand anyway, so it makes sense to just VNC into the Raspberry Pi when you want to use it. The only major drawback is that it can be difficult to select a wireless network to connect to, which has to be done before you can connect via VNC or SSH. Ramin Assadollahi’s StickPi solves that problem by adding a minimalist interface.
Assadollahi started with a Raspberry Pi Zero W powered by a USB battery pack, and installed the full version of Raspbian that includes the Pixel desktop required for VNC. He then connected small 250x122 pixel, 2.13 inch ePaper display HAT from from Waveshare, which uses the SPI interface. On the bottom of the Raspberry Pi, he attached a protoboard with six buttons (directional plus two more) to the GPIO pins.
That was all placed inside of a simple 3D-printed case, and the finished StickPi is nice and compact. For now, a simple Python script queries the buttons, and then prints which one was pressed on the ePaper display. But, Assadollahi has plans to program a more involved UI that will allow him to perform tasks connecting to WiFi networks. If you want to build your own StickPi, the electronics are straightforward to assemble, and Assadollahi has made the STL files for the case available on Thingiverse.