Google flaunts deceptively intrusive ambient notification concepts


18, 2022

Google has showcased a new range of concepts called ‘Little Signals’ that aim to provide less intrusive notifications, but we don’t trust them. 

Created in collaboration with Map Project Office, Google calls their ‘Little Signals’ concept a “family of unassuming but charming objects that share notifications and information by engaging with our senses in more nuanced ways.”

Rather than giving you a loud but nonetheless useful notification with a sound or vibration, Google’s Little Signals are a range of six objects that will subtly remind you to get back to work via notifications using “familiar patterns” such as “soft shadow, a friendly tap, a reassuring sound, a subtle indicator, a slight waft of air, [or] a gentle motion.”

While these less intrusive notification machines may sound rather fetching throughout Google’s calming concept video, we can’t help but wonder how useful they’d actually be. The “Air” object, for instance, that uses pulses of air to rustle some plant leaves, is definitely less intrusive than typical notifications, however, it could equally just be dismissed as the wind. 

Beyond their potentially useless nature, we’re also somewhat concerned about even inviting these unassuming devices into our homes, as they appear to be worryingly effective at not actually letting you relax. 

Despite Google claiming that these concept devices would take up less of our attention and allow us to have “moments of calm” we can’t help but think that they’d soon come to dominate our lives, always leaving us forever on the lookout for the subtle queues and unable to relax once we see one of them activate. 

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With Google having a longstanding interest in “ambient computing” that doesn’t interfere as much with our daily lives, it’s only a matter of time before we see concepts like this becoming a reality in some way or another, whether we like it or not. 

For those who just can’t wait for the ambient computing future to arrive on its own terms, Google is offering vague instructions on how to build a range of Little Signals devices for yourself via the concept’s website.

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