Our days are full of devices trying their best to grab our attention, from a computer dinging when a new email hits to a smartphones vibrating every time an app wants to sell something. If you’re like most people, the vast majority of those notifications are irritating. But they are still necessary in many cases. To provide more soothing signals, Google turned to Arduino to build these unique devices.
Little Signals is one of Google’s “Digital Wellbeing Experiments,” which are technological concepts and prototypes designed to enhance our lives instead of adding stress to them. Each Little Signals device has a unique way of notifying users about an arbitrary digital event through “calm technology.” For example, one Little Signals device gentle blows air on a plant’s leaves, which could indicate the presence of a new email. Another gently taps on a prescription bottle to alert the user that it is time to take their medication.
Google won’t sell these Little Signals devices, but they did release the code so that you can build your own. Each unit uses a MKR1000 WiFi board to facilitate its function. There are six devices in total: Air, Button, Movement, Rhythm, Shadow, and Tap. Each has a distinct notification technique, but many of them share underlying components. The downloadable package includes STEP files for 3D printing, but it also has instructions for constructing the devices using common household materials if you don’t have access to a 3D printer.