Friday, February 24, 2017

"The secret Google project to put an aquarium full of tiny, wiggly water bears inside your phone"

A detailed look at the prototype:

“The first time that we discovered that the camera being on was an obstacle for these guys staying alive was a little bit of a frightening moment. It got to such a temperature where these guys were dying off, and if you don’t think about it too hard, that’s almost like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are you going to take pictures of these guys if they can’t survive for a long period of time when the camera’s on?’ That’s kind of a mini-crisis that sort of requires a lot of rethinking,” said Gonzalez.

The team “collected data on shaking, rapid heat changes, suffocation, and population control,” said project manager Jennifer Bernstein, Midnight Commercial’s main contact with Google. But unlike a virtual Tamagotchi pet, tardigrades are living creatures. And if they die before reproducing, all they leave behind is algae.

Midnight Commercial resolved to fix the problem with software. The engineers designed the experience around nudges that let you “play” with your tardigrades without killing them with love. “If you’ve been looking at [them] too much, we’d have a control that says, the next time you try to open the app if it hasn’t cooled down enough, it would say ‘They’re resting right now, why don’t you see some videos that we’ve taken before’, or what-not,” said Feehan.