Google Little Signals aims to make your notifications Zen

Google Little Signals aims to make your notifications Zen
We’re living in a fast-paced world. The sheer amount of information thrown at us every day can make even a Zen monk anxious. Speaking of Zen (there are now three mentions of this Far East school of thought), Google’s latest experiment reminds me of a calm autumn river quietly floating through the endless circle of time and space.

Now, if that’s not Zen I don’t know what is. Back to Google Little Signals! The idea is quite extraordinary, and innovative too. “Little Signals explores new patterns for technology in our daily lives,” reads the introductory paragraph on Google’s official website.

The tech company has created six physical objects that are designed to be seamlessly embedded into our daily lives. These six objects use “different sensorial cues to subtly signal for attention.”

These different and subtle “sensorial cues” vary from a soft shadow one device starts to cast when it wants your attention, to a colorful ring that gets exposed, a gentle knock, and even a gust of wind coming your way!

It’s a new way of dealing with notifications, and albeit a little impractical at first glance, it could result in reduction in stress levels, and overall anxiety.

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Little Signal devices

The six devices in this experiment are aptly named Air, Button, Movement, Rhythm, Shadow, and Tap.

Air uses pulses of air to move objects around it and attract your attention. These might include the leaves of your house plant, or a magazine cover. The device features a rotating top with two nozzles to blow air onto things.

Button is a mushroom-like device that uses visual and sound cues to notify you. The top of the device raises, revealing a bright-colored ring underneath. The more information the device receives, the larger the ring. When full, the device makes a gentle chime.

Movement uses seven cylindrical pegs that go up and down when information comes in. They can represent the days of the week, a timer, or a specially designed list of things you want to be notified about.

Rhythm is a more conventional way of notifying you about things - it uses sound patterns. You can simply flip the device to mute it or wave your hand above it.

Shadow uses its shadow (obviously) to convey information. This device can grow its shadow or make it pulsate to get your attention.

Tap is one of the most interesting ones, as it features a mechanical arm that taps or knocks when it wants to get your attention. This can be a little abrupt or scary at moments, so I’m not sure where’s the Zen in hearing a strange pattern of knocks out of nowhere.

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Our take

With that being said, the idea is not that bad, especially when it comes to non-critical notifications. Some of these devices won’t work for tasks where you need to be on the split-second, like an alarm for boiling your eggs, or an urgent message that needs to be dealt with.

On some other occasions though, these new and more relaxed notifications could make your life easier and more Zen. Like remembering to water your plants - when you glance at the red ring on your Button device. Or you get a gentle breeze down your neck reminding you to stand from your computer and move around a bit.

All in all - a very interesting take on notifications. You can visit the official Little Signals page for more details.

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