Google imagines the future of notifications in the form of “small signals”

Google wants to rethink the way we receive notifications through ambient computing.

Google Little Signals // Source: Google

Over time, applications multiply and, with them, the number of notifications we receive on a daily basis as well. These notifications undermine productivity and can be very stressful on a day-to-day basis. What if there were other ways to discreetly alert us to the presence of a message or remind us of a task? This is what Google is working on.

“Small signals” instead of notifications

Google conducted a design study on ambient computing that led to imagining different objects capable of subtly notifying something through taps, breaths, or discrete visuals. “Little Signals”, since that is the name of this study, “explores new patterns of technology in our daily lives“.

This concept is presented in a video, showing the different objects imagined to distribute notifications:

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Six devices, operating on the basis of an Arduino, are thus presented:

  • Air: A device that pulses air at surrounding objects (such as the leaves of a plant) to attract attention;
  • Button: a button that rises to the rhythm of the information received, it emits a sound when it is “full”;
  • Movement: a set of 7 movable pegs that graphically represent information by their height and movement;
  • Rhythm: a device that generates ambient noise depending on the importance or urgency of the information, simply flip it over to silence it;
  • Shadow: the device communicates through the movement of the shadows it casts beneath it;
  • Tap: just tap on a surface, more or less strongly depending on the importance of the message to convey.

For those who are interested in these devices, Google provides the 3D plans to download to print them on its site.

This is currently just an experimental project, but it also shows a trend that will develop over time: the reduction of our dependence on notifications. This is not the first time that Google has mentioned ambient computing. It’s something that Rick Osterloh, head of hardware at Google, has been talking about for several years to improve his Nest range. Maybe we will see these kind of signals on future Google Homes…


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