Facebook's Chat Heads feature taken to the next level with the Halo mod

For many folks, half the fun of having an Android phone or tablet is hacking the daylights out of it. For the average user, that means installing custom tweaks and ROMs. For the developer types, though, it means something different. They get inside things, and twist everything around until they get it all the way they like. Here's a great example of that.

The folks hard at work on the Paranoid Android ROM have been teasing a new feature, and today we get a four-minute glimpse of Halo.

Think Chat Heads on steroids. It's an entirely new way of handling notifications, and it looks pretty slick. Trun it on from the status bar, and your notifications appear in a small circular icon and flyout. Tap said icon, and whatever you might be doing will pause, and a small version of the application that gave you a notification will open, allowing you to respond appropriately.

There's no public release available yet, but word is you'll soon be able to try it yourself. We'll keep an eye out for this one.

Thanks, David!


Reader comments

Halo feature from Paranoid Android team demoed in video


I personally think this is really cool. This is the true definition of multitasking.

I read this comment on droid-life earlier this week which truly sums up how awesome this feature is.

From tanknspank:

Have you seen any of the videos about Facebook's "chat heads"? It's the same basic idea. Whenever you get a notification, be it at your homescreen, in the facebook app or in the middle of a game of angry birds, a little circle will pop up on your screen, allowing quick access to that notification without having to leave the app you're currently in. So imagine if someone messages you on facebook while you are in the rousing game of Angry Birds, you can tap on the chat head, pausing the game but not removing you from it (forcing a reload on most phones), reply to the message, and get right back to your game.

But let's not stop there. Imagine you are uploading a photo or file to dropbox. After starting the upload, it could take a while so you move onto something else, like browsing twitter. When that finally uploads, a "chat head" will pop up on your screen, allowing you to take action on the finally uploaded file or photo and share it to the person you wanted to in a text. After you send it, just close out the popped up app and you're right back to browsing your twitter feed.

The possibilities go on and on.

It's a nifty feature for sure, but it's no different than the actual notification bar, and does not provide information like time, date, battery percentage, etc. Also, does not allow for custom shortcuts.

You're right. It doesn't cook breakfast either. I really think you've missed the scope of this app. I think it's cool.... a niche app, but cool.

Considering that this appears to be capturing all notifications, I would think it would do exactly that as long as you had notifications for dropbox, etc. turned on. At least I can do that from the current notification system, which this mirrors in a "bubble" format.

handful feature for those who needs it. Personally I don't like a halo on my screen all the time so I probably won't use this much.

Because this will work with literally any app, if you get a new tweet, bam! you can reply to it! If you get a new email, you can reply while watching a movie or something. Thats the beauty of the whole thing, sms popups are just that, sms. This completely unlocks any app to do the same thing, so if you like sms popups, chances are, you will love using this

Twitter works with SMS as well, but I guess I don't have the need to reply to stuff as soon as I get it. I do like the major amount of work PA is putting into their developing right now though.

I dont like that the bubble sits on top, even empty, but i would be SUPER surprised to see that not go away soon or at least have an option to completely hide the bubble if its not in use or something.

What a brilliant move by the PA team though. i think this is awesome!! Cant wait to give it a go. implementation and options will either make this a HUGE success or waste of time, but i just hope facebook doesn't put the squeeze on them to halt it (wouldn't be surprised to see that happen at ALL)

Facebook can't do anything about this. If you buy the HTC First you'll find that it does the same thing for Facebook Home. And the only reason Facebook is able to do that is because Android is Open-Source. These guys are doing something similar but they aren't using proprietary source code from Facebook or HTC.

Please make available for non-Rooted devices through the Google Play Store!
Ninja SMS & the other Chat Head-like Apps just don't cut it compared to this...

Not possible, the changes are in the framework app and all around just to deeply integrated into android itself, to be distributed as a simple apk.

i think its, pretty cool but i dont see myself wanting to use this for all notifications, i'm happy with just chat replies as fb messenger has set up .... or whatever the hell you want ;)

I think it's a brilliant take on the current notification system in that it is accessible on full-screen apps. The current notification bar requires a press of the multitasking button in order to do the same, and some apps then restart when going back to them. This would appear to avoid that. Ideally I could see myself using both, with Halo only being used when I am actively using the phone for something full-screen.

While it's a nice idea and I do use Chat Heads currently, I wish the functionality was built into the notification dropdown itself, because I find the bubbles popping up a little intrusive or distracting.

This. The ultimate multi-tasking on Android would be a hybrid of the chat-heads/notification bar. I hate being in an SMS thread with someone and having to compose a long email/play a game/anything else time consuming and having to constantly switch back and forth between the two. Chat heads let you put the FB on top of whatever you are doing, but they can take up unnecessary space. You should have an option from the notification bar to take action on a notification to make it into a chat head.

Thats cool, I guess. but why wouldn't I just switch to another application? The popup takes up too much of the screen and overlaps the "background" app so its not like there's any extra multitasking functionality.

I would really this feature, I just hope that other roms will be able to implement it instead of only aosp roms

This is an amazing feature. Game changing.

Whether you realize it yet or not, you want this feature.

My problem with seeing how amazing or incredible this supposedly is: I already use the notification bar for the same functionality. It's just now in a cute little bubble, inspired by Facebook Home.

Everyone is saying the point is "you can simply tap on it from within any app/game/screen and it automatically pauses your app, and then takes you into the correct app to respond, and then right back to your original app before you were interrupted!!!!!" -- The notification bar already does this...? The difference is you don't swipe down from the top? Now all you do is tap a bubble which, while the size is small, it is still taking up more screen space.

The thing this new "super-incredibly-amazing" app is doing over the notification bar is reading your message to you before you decide to respond or not..oh..wait...no, if you choose it, the notification bar does this too.

Add in the fact that I use NinjaSMS, which is already this...

I guess in closing, the ONLY thing this app has that nothing else on Android has (the standard notification bar or NinjaSMS) is the fact that is can be used with any app. That's all. But, it could be argued that the notification bar is used with any app too, so, yeah, I guess I'm just not "getting it".

What are you talking about? There are a lot of apps/games that I use and the notification bar is not visible, therefore not functional. This app would work well in those incidents.

Exactly. The notification bar is not visible in any true full-screen apps, so Halo definitely has some advantages. The only way to view the notification bar in a full-screen app is to use the task switcher button, which often causes a full-screen app to restart instead of pausing.

@Jerry Hildenbrand

Thanks for the post.

Let it come out first, then user can feel how much tasty it is ??

Thanks in Advance

For all those complaining about this feature, you don't have to root your phone and flash a custom ROM. It's personal choice and the beauty of Android...
Personally I think this a great and as a Paranoid Android user, I'm looking forward to the Alpha release. It'll come into it's own in PA's full screen and PIE mode IMO.

This looks very cool and I'll be switching to PA because of these last 2 new features, but I'm hoping you'll be able to open the flyout window without pausing the background somehow. I'm mostly thinking about youtube. So annoying that the video pauses whenever you do ANYTHING. I can see that people would want games paused, but other apps, I would not want to pause. Not sure how they could implement that though.

I think this is great. I've wanted to be able to do this for a while. A benefit for those of us on larger phones is that you can basically put your notification bar anywhere on the screen so it's easier to reach. Hopefully they can make an option to make the bubble transparent though.

Anyone know if this'll be for rooted devices only.... Would the dev be willing to share any thoughts on this?!? Thanks!

I'm not a dev, but a longtime PA user.
To utilize the power of the hybrid engine you will need root, but the main point is, they only develop for Nexus devices, those are made to do what you want, so if you need root it's not a problem.
Other devices are always just ports by third persons, but most other devices need to be rooted in order to install custom recovery, so I'd say yes, you need root.
And, to take away the possible follow up question, it's too deeply integrated into the system itself, to be distributed as an apk.