This video is from a game called Earthworm Jim. It’s a recording of what happens when you don’t touch the controller for a while. The character has entered an ‘idle state’ meaning that a sequence of predefined animations starts, helping to give the collection of pixels more character. This Earthworm Jim example is particularly good because some of these idle animations reveal aspects of the character that you’d never discover unless you see them.

So if you apply the idle animation thing to smart, connected objects and particularly smart objects in the home I think there’s some interesting avenues to explore. I’m not saying everything should tap its foot, look around or whistle to itself when you’re not interacting with it - but it could be fun to see what’s possible. Idle states could be used as reminders to check the status of something. They could be helpful and relay useful information but they could also just add character to an object. Ideally they’d do both.

Maybe groups of objects could have a shared idle state, helping to reinforce the feeling of interconnectivity. They could be based on a number of inputs - including those of sensors attached to other objects on the network. Maybe the room has gone dark, there’s not been motion or sound for a few minutes or maybe the idle state is linked to network activity that we can’t see.

We’d need to be careful that these things aren’t annoying but I think that if they’re clever and subtle enough to avoid turning things into clippy they could help us form deeper emotional bonds with the things that surround us.