Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Subconscious reminders

The toaster is talking to me again..
 
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We've all had the experience of aimlessly wandering in the direction of an appliance that finishes what it's doing just as we get to it. We all know the weird feeling you get when your hand, randomly passing over the toaster, (as it does) catches the toast that pops up at exactly the right moment, or when you open the oven to baste some form of celebratory bird life just as the timer goes off.

Appliances capable of giving subconscious reminders would randomly (you don't want it to happen every time) let you know when something was just about done, but without distracting you or annoying anyone else. If you didn't have anything better to do, you might vaguely wander off in the right direction, not really knowing why, until you get there.

The signal could be delivered aurally, through soft tones at particular frequencies; or visually, by subtly changing the brightness of a few lights; or through smell, by releasing a particular scent. Obviously, this would need to be coordinated by one of your typical not-too-distant-future smart home things, but that's not important right now. People in noisy, smelly, bright smart homes might have problems, I guess.

Of course, the effect would be diminished by the fact that you know it's going to happen at least some of the time. I think that if it was truly random (so you couldn't pick a pattern) and done subtly enough that you couldn't learn to pick up the signs, you'd never truly know if it was your latent clairvoyant ability manifesting in some totally trivial, pointless (not to mention non commercially exploitable) way, or just the washing machine squirting air freshener at you.

Either way, it'd be a useful means of delivering low-priority interrupts to potentially disinterested humans.

lobster, Sep 30 2001

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       A soft sound effect leading up to the alert wouldn't be terrible (in addition to a visual countdown).   

       But I don't see why all the focus on "subconscious"; surely we can talk about subtle alerts preceding obvious alerts without invoking Freud?   

       And no smells, please.
egnor, Sep 30 2001
  

       egnor, I wasn't deliberately invoking Freud. In my haste to actually write something up before I forgot about it, I seem to have grabbed the wrong root word, stapled 'sub-' to it, and never looked back. Not only that, but I also seem to have gone slightly stupid with the rest of it. I think I should find something better to do with my weekends.   

       The point of this idea is that I often don't care exactly when certain things happen, so I don't want big noisy beeps and clunks, or bright flashing lights, distracting me from my important business.   

       In these situations, I'd like a signal that is both easy to ignore, yet also easy to spot if I'm paying attention. I also don't like the idea of my living space overtly telling me what to do. I'm not sure how well any of the ideas I mentioned would work, but it's a starting point. Everything else I mentioned is just pointless exaggeration.   

       Do washing machines, kettles, dishwashers and so on know exactly how long they're going to take?   

       (offtopic halfbakery newbie question: would it be considered impolite of me to rename the idea and rewrite the description in a more sensible style?)
lobster, Oct 03 2001
  

       //Do washing machines, kettles, dishwashers and so on know exactly how long they're going to take?//
some, yes. The others will have to learn.
  

       //offtopic halfbakery newbie question://
stop pretending to be a newbie and edit the damn thing already. jeez. some people. bonus points if you make Peter look silly.
  

       //The signal could be delivered aurally... through smell//
Ahhh, Bisto.
st3f, Oct 03 2001
  

       //Do washing machines, kettles, dishwashers and so on know exactly how long they're going to take?//
some, yes. The others will have to learn.
  

       //offtopic halfbakery newbie question://
stop pretending to be a newbie and edit the damn thing already. jeez. some people. bonus points if you make Peter look silly.
  

       //The signal could be delivered aurally... through smell//
Ahhh, Bisto.
st3f, Oct 03 2001
  
      
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