Living in an always-on world can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you will never miss an email, a message, or a call because you have notifications on your smartphone, smartwatch, or your smart speaker. But it’s also a curse as it can be very distracting or even triggering for some. Sure you can just turn off notifications if you don’t want to be disturbed or bothered but of course, you might miss some important things. There should be a delicate balance between the two and Google seems to be looking for that.
Designers: Seed Studio and Map Project Office
What Google has come up with is something called the Little Signals series, a set of devices that aims to bring distraction-free notifications. They came up with a way to integrate ordinary, everyday sounds that are part of your environment to still bring you alerts but not get distracted or bothered by them. There are six devices in this experimental project for distraction-less alerts: Air, Button, Movement, Rhythm, Shadow, and Tap. Each one has different options that users can choose from which will best fit their lifestyle and needs.
The Air device seems the most interesting one if you are a plant parent. It uses patterns like blow, wiggle, or spin that will affect nearby plants or objects that will be affected by “air” when you receive a notification. Of course, if you’re not paying attention much, you might miss the signals but at least there’s a way to make it less in your face. The Button device meanwhile is a bit more noticeable as it will pop up, twist, or give off a subtle chime sound. It is orange so it is will catch your attention.
The Movement device has seven different actions you can choose from like move, bounce, push, and can even create a “graph” to let you know you have a notification. The Rhythm one seems the most “calming” among the devices as it gives off ambient sounds and can be controlled with the wave of a hand. If you don’t need it to give you notifications, you can just flip it over. I would personally choose this one if it ever goes to market.
Shadow, like its name says, casts movements of shadow when you receive notifications. The shadow itself is able to breathe, shake, stretch, and rotate so it can subtly grab your attention. Lastly, Tap will be able to knock, wave, spin, and point for various notifications. Design-wise, these devices seem to match the Google Home line and are also pretty subtle in appearance, matching their functionalities and how we can interact with these devices.