Little Signals

Exploring the world of ambient notifications.

Insight

Rehearsing the future.

Our devices alerting us with pop-ups, vibrations, and message tones are part of our everyday lives and can lead to notification fatigue and distraction.

Google’s Seed Studio has collaborated with AKQA’s pre-eminent industrial design studio Map Project Office to explore how technology can support us in the background of our day-to-day lives.

Through the lens of ambient computing, Google is imagining new ways to interact with technology, using less of our attention, allowing us to have moments of calm.

Idea

A family of unassuming and charming objects.

Little Signals is a series of interactive experiments and thought starters on how we can foster new behaviours and relationships with our technology.
The six objects keep us in the loop, but softly, moving from the background to the foreground.
Each device has its own communication method, like puffs of air or ambient sounds. Simple movements and controls bring them to life and respond to changing surroundings and needs.
Air interacts with its close surroundings. Pulses of air move nearby objects, like the leaves of a plant, to attract attention.
Button combines scale and sound to communicate and provide control. It grows as it fills with information, and its top can be twisted right for more details or left for less.
Movement features seven pegs that graphically represent information, like a calendar or timer, through height and motion. The pegs work individually or as a group, and are tapped for simple input.
Rhythm generates ambient sounds. Qualities of the melody convey qualities of the information, like its importance, urgency, or tone. A wave over the object or simply turning it over mutes it.
Shadow communicates through the movements of the shadow it casts. They show the object’s status, like gently breathing when active or stretching in response to presence.
Tap makes use of surfaces to create sounds that act as notifications. A stronger tap means more pressing news.

Impact

Working in harmony with the objects we already love, in a little way.

Many everyday objects find subtle ways to inform us - from the moving hands of a clock to the whistle of a kettle. Building on calm technology principles, Little Signals continues that theme and explores how we might stay up-to-date with digital information while maintaining peaceful moments.
Google has released the Little Signals code so that you can build your own devices. The package includes files for 3D printing and instructions for constructing using household items if you don’t have access to a 3D printer.

Project Tags

Companies

  • Google logo

    Google

    • Technology
  • M

    Map Project Office

    Skills