Google ‘Ambient Notification’ shows wind puffs, including moving shadows

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If you’ve been using a computing device for the past few decades, you’ve probably been bothered by notifications at some point. Websites and social media platforms are constantly designed to send you small dings and quims to keep you engaged. Google wants to solve this problem with a new type of notification system called Little Signal. Together they create a more gentle and subtle way to let you know something is happening.

The basic theory behind this design study is sound. Notifications can be very loud, abrupt, and disrupt our daily lives. Google’s work is at first glance Dieter sisterVia Twitter.

In Google’s words, it is “designed to explore how we can stay up-to-date with digital information while maintaining a moment of peace.” While this may sound like a bit of an uproar, the implementation seems to be quite calming. As you can see on the Little Signals website or in the video below, it is built on cool technology and has six objects. Let’s look at each one individually.

The first is air, so you’ll need to keep the small puffer somewhere so that it can move slowly. Google includes an example of gently blowing on a plant leaf. It’s something you can notice from the corner of your eye, because it’s really subtle. The second is a button, which increases as it is filled with information. You can picture it being in your email inbox. You can tweak it to the right and less to the left for more details. When it is full it emits a tone. No word on how it sounds, but a collection seems unlikely.

Next we have the movement, a series of seven pegs in a row that go up and down from their chambers. These are used to represent things like timers or calendar notifications. You can tap them to dismiss a warning. The fourth is the rhythm, which is a bowl that makes the surrounding sound. According to Google, the “quality” of a word is related to the quality of the information. It is not clear what that means. You can move your hand over the bowl or turn it over to mute it.

The fifth object is the shadow, and it is a mushroom-shaped bowl that lifts up and down. This can cause the shadow to “breathe” while active, or increase the response to something important. This is probably the second most confusing item on the list. Finally, we have the tap, which is a small hand that taps into things. In the video above it is tapping a medicine bottle gently, presumably warning you that it is time to take a pill.

Google’s Seed Studio collaborated with Maps to create objects, and its website lets you download code for objects. You can also download them all on this site. This is the latest Arduino project created by the company. Personally, I can’t wait to be notified that I missed a deadline with a breeze instead of an explosive-filled slack message.

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