One of the most interesting features of Facebook Home for Android is the Chat Heads notification system. Instead of showing an alert in your status bar every time you get a new message from someone you’re chatting with, a picture of that person will pop up on your screen and stay on the screen no matter which app you’re using.
This lets you continue chatting without exiting your web browser, video game, or other app every time you want to read or send a message. When you’re done with the chat you can just dismiss the notifications.
But why should Facebook Home users get all the fun? The developers behind Paranoid Android are working on a tool that will let any app on your system use a Chat Head-style notification.
The feature is called Halo, and it will be baked into future builds of Paranoid Android. That’s a custom ROM for Android phones and tablets that have unlocked bootloaders.
Halo will offer an always-visible notification for any app you want to use it with. That includes Google Talk, text messaging, Facebook, Skype, or even apps that have nothing to do with messaging, including music player notifications, image uploads, or just about anything else.
While Halo will be built into upcoming versions of Paranoid Android, like most of the team’s software, it will be optional. You can disable it if you don’t want to use it. But if you do opt-in, you can always dismiss a notification just by dragging it over to a red X on the screen.
The Paranoid Android team has a reputation for rethinking the Android user interface. The development team first gained attention for letting users decide on a per-app basis whether a device should show an app’s phone or tablet user interface.
Then the team introduced PIE controls which let you access Android action buttons and notifications with a gesture. Most recently Paranoid Android started showing off its new concepts for multitasking in Android, and it looks like Halo represents a part of that picture.
Update: Here’s a video showing a pre-alpha build of Halo in action: