Say you're at home, chilling. Say, in fact, you're looking to have an exceptionally chill weekend. Why? I don't know, I'm not a mindreader. Let's just say you are. Unfortunately, you've exhausted all of your normal boring internet routines! What do you do? Don't worry, I've got you covered. Let us venture out into the technological wilds together to find some laughs, oddities, cult favorites, and cool sensory experiences you may not yet be privy to.
Heat Pad HD is exactly what it sounds like, but cooler. It's a relaxation app that basically turns your iPhone or iPad into a heat-sensing surface that you can touch with your finger, causing the screen to change colors wherever you make contact and then fade away. I've messed around on this app for hours at a time before while listening to podcasts, music, and audiobooks, and it's extremely hypnotic. You can even choose different themes that will provide different effects and colors.
Flower is a calming tilt-controlled game in which you harness the power of the wind to guide flower petals through vibrant, beautifully designed environments. The only real object is to collect more petals. Perhaps more importantly than that, though, players are encouraged to explore and interact with the surroundings in the game at their own pace, immersing themselves in the super captivating and meditative sensory experience. In Flower, there's no text or dialogue to read, and no real "messing up" — it's all about the journey.
- Flower - $4.99 - Download now
Monument Valley 1 and 2
If you've never played Monument Valley, you are sorely missing out. It's a surreal puzzle game in which you manipulate gorgeous, geometrically nonsensical environments and optical illusions to guide a princess called Ida through a magical world. It's also so beautiful I once actually welled up just thinking about it. The sequel, Monument Valley 2, is somehow even more incredible, and follows a mother called Ro as she teaches her child about the mystical valley and about equally mystical life itself.
Patatap is a portable, animated sound kit where you can create cool beats and visuals by tapping on your screen. This is another one I've spent hours messing with, and it's really fun once you get a pattern you like going.
- Patatap - $1.99 - Download now
Aw, c'mon Tory, another puzzle game? Yeah bud, another puzzle game. Samorost 3 is a delightfully weird and whimsical exploration adventure game from the very cool Amanita Design in which you guide a little space gnome on his journey to different planets, each with its own unique terrain, sound, and environment. This is perhaps my favorite iOS game I've ever played — it gives me the same fantastical vibes I got as a kid making fairy houses in the woods behind my home.
- Samorost 3 - $4.99 - Download now
Viridi is a succulent-growing simulator. Now, before you say that it sounds boring, hear me out: it's less about the plant growing, and more about the ambiance. It's basically a little calm-down zone in your pocket, complete with stunning, soft visuals and a pretty instrumental soundtrack. What's more, all the plants in the app are based on real-life succulents and bear their scientific names, so you also get some sweet botany knowledge as you play.
- Viridi - Free - Download now
Podcasts, radio, and other various sounds
Hello from the Magic Tavern
Hello from the Magic Tavern is a comedic fantasy podcast in which a dude named Arnie — who fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago — sits in a tavern called the Vermillion Minotaur and interviews all manner of monsters, magic users, and wandering adventurers. It's equal parts odd, charming, and vulgar, and is a fantastic way to feel like an eavesdropping wizard while you're doing mundane, non-magical tasks.
Describing A Rock with Milo Axelrod
I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way: I'm extremely angry at Milo Axelrod for doing this podcast before I could get a chance to come up with it myself. This is literally a podcast in which the host — you guessed it — describes rocks. Or, sometimes, several rocks. Each episode is short, wholesome, and pleasant, and Milo's voice is so whispery and kind in that ideal ASMR way that gives you the sensation of someone gently touching your hair.
Song Exploder is a podcast in which artists describe how they created some of their most famous songs as the song literally builds from nothing in the background, piece by piece. It's a great podcasts for music lovers, thinkers, and people who just love knowing how things fit together/are made.
Within the Wires
Within the Wires is serial drama from Night Vale Presents, and if you know anything about Welcome to Night Vale, you know any show in its orbit has got to be both weird and oddly comforting. The story unfolds in each episode through found audio (so-called Relaxation Cassettes in Season 1, and a museum audio tour in Season 2). If you're not feeling a whole two seasons, you can listen to either one or the other independently, because they offer distinct, unrelated stories. I myself am partial to Season 1.
The Conet Project
The Conet Project is an archive of mysterious shortwave Numbers Station transmissions of uncertain origins. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Numbers Stations are shortwave radio stations that broadcast strange signals and coded messages by way of lists of numbers, polytonal rhythms, and other odd sounds. Put this on at night for the ideal vibe.
YouTube channels and shows
It's Alive! with Brad
If you're not usually a fan of cooking shows, Brad Leone is the perfect chef for you to watch. He's basically like if a golden retriever somehow became a wildly intelligent human being and then got excited about the idea of fermenting stuff. His videos are funny, informational, and approachable, and you can make almost everything he does in the test kitchen for yourself at home.
If you're looking for a visceral sensory experience that will give you goosebumps while simultaneously chilling you all the way out, you may want to get into ASMR videos. There are literally thousands of them out there, and they involve everything from people whispering to tapping on seashells to rubbing lotion on their skin. If you're not sure what exactly your ASMR triggers are, you can check out one of the many trigger test videos to find your niche. My personal favorites are 88rising's videos of Japan's Greatest Bartender making various cocktails.
Hydraulic Press Channel
This is a YouTube channel where a guy crushes stuff with a hydraulic press. It is riveting. Want to see a hydraulic press crush Lego figurines? A bowling ball? A Nokia 3310? He's done it. The satisfaction I get from these videos is pretty much indescribable, so you'll have to check them out for yourself for the full experience.
Drugslab is an educational YouTube channel where three friends take drugs in a safe environment with medics around and describe their experience. The resulting videos are actually incredibly fascinating, and feature some really genuine moments that'll keep you marathoning them for hours. If you're not sure where to start, I'd check out the episode where Nellie trips on LSD. Oh, and the videos are in Dutch, so if you're not a fan of subtitles, these may not be your thing.
A memory hole is, according to Google's dictionary, "an imaginary place where inconvenient or unpleasant information is put and quickly forgotten." Thankfully, the individuals behind Everything is Terrible have curated a whole YouTube channel that tangibly archives that strange discarded info. Memory Hole is ... well, a lot of things. Most prominently it's a weird 90's home movie graveyard where every Friday a new video from someone's past surfaces to haunt anyone curious enough to click.
The interactive work of Rafaël Rozendaal
If you desire a more participatory experience that you don't have to download any apps for, you may be into the myriad of interactive webpages designed by Dutch-Brazilian visual artist Rafaël Rozendaal. There are about 100 to choose from, and each provides a unique sensory service combining touch, sound, and visuals. I've got yes no if, soft slow, trying trying, and it will never be the same bookmarked for when I need to zone out for a bit.
Hypnoid's Diagnostic Tests
Full disclosure: I mostly have no idea what these are. I know they were supposedly created by a product designer named Randy Horton, but outside of that I don't know if they serve a purpose other than making people feel suuuuper weird (and there are articles that suggest they may even make you go insane). They're faux (?) diagnostic tests that I found years ago, and I've been taking them intermittently every since because I love their murmur-driven soundscape and flashing colors. (And yes, there are flashing colors, so if you've got any conditions that may be exacerbated by that, proceed to the links with caution). Oddly enough, the results they provide are usually also eerily accurate.
If you dig the super minuscule feeling you get from photos of Earth taken from a great distance, you may really dig 100,000 Stars. It's a Google Chrome experiment featuring a visualization of approximately 100,000 stars near to our little planet that you can scroll through, zoom in on, and click on for more info. It's visually really gorgeous, and you may learn something about astronomy you didn't know before while star surfing.
Listen to Wikipedia
Listen to Wikipedia is an experimental website that allows you to actually hear changes being made to Wikipedia. Each bell indicates an addition, and each string pluck indicates a subtraction. The pitch of the sound changes according to the size of the edit — the larger the edit, the lower the note. What's more, every time a new user joins the site, you hear a dramatic string swell.
What are your favorite technological routes to sensory goodness and relaxation? Share them in the comments!
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