Apple Transparent Texting: Faceplant Prevention? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
News
3/27/2014
12:31 AM
50%
50%

Apple Transparent Texting: Faceplant Prevention?

New Apple patent won't stop people from texting while walking, but it could help prevent some distraction-related injuries.

CES 2014: 8 Technologies To Watch
CES 2014: 8 Technologies To Watch
(click image for larger view and slideshow)

Admit it -- at one point or another you've snickered at some poor schmuck taking a pratfall while trying to text and walk at the same time. Unfortunately, texting-while-walking can do more than bruise the ego: It can lead to real injury, property loss, and even death.

Smartphones are the king of all distractions, and people continue to use them no matter what else they might be doing. A new idea from Apple, however, could help prevent injuries and other mishaps for serial smartphone multitaskers.

Apple filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for something called "transparent texting." First spotted by AppleInsider, the idea is quite simple. The patent reads:

A method of communicating, the method comprising: displaying, on a display on a front of a device, a background depicting a scene currently being viewed by a camera on the device; overlaying, on the background, a messaging application capable of sending and receiving messages, the messaging application occupying a first area of the background; wherein portions of the background on which the messaging application is overlaid are visible.

[Texting behind the wheel is dangerous, but so is talking. Read Texting Vs. Talking While Driving: Debate Continues.]

In other words, the iPhone could be set to turn on the camera and provide a live video feed to the screen. The texting or messaging application would then overlay the live video feed, allowing users to see where they're going while continuing to send and read messages. Ideally, people texting while walking would notice a lamp post, garbage pail, or fire hydrant before stumbling into it.

"When texting, you're not as in control with the complex actions of walking," said Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo in New York, in a statement last month. "While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can't see the path in front of you." Jehle believes about 10% of the tens of thousands of pedestrian ER visits are caused by cellphones.

According to an Ohio State University study, the number of ER visits by pedestrians related to cellphones jumped 300% between 2004 and 2010, with those most in danger of injury aged 16 to 25.

Apple, which regularly files patents that have yet to appear in real-world products, first filed the patent in 2012, and so far there's no indication that it plans to add the feature to the iOS operating system or iMessage texting application. It would be interesting to see the idea applied to email, browsers, calendars, or other apps that require users to stare at the screen.

While transparent texting could help prevent some accidents, it won't solve the larger problem of just how distracting smartphones have become. People use them when walking down the street, eating dinner, driving, sitting on airplanes, in the loo, and everywhere in between. Transparent texting might help avert a symptom, but it ignores the sickness.

Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
J_Brandt
50%
50%
J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 10:17:05 PM
You Can't Fix Stupid
I'm sorry but there are some things technology just cannot fix.  Stupid is one of those things. 
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 3:44:59 PM
Just be present.
Just put your phone down. Whatever it is, I'm sure it can wait. I see SO many people who are glued to their devices ALL the time -- if you fall victim to a pickpocketer, as Lorna mentioned, or trip because you're not paying attention, you have no one but yourself to blame.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 3:29:07 PM
More danger than looking silly
The young woman in that photo risks having her bag snatched at best, being assaulted at worst, if there are not people nearby. I fail to understand how anyone thinks it's a good idea to be totally oblivious to one's surroundings in public. Earphones are bad enough, but at least your eyes and most of your brain are engaged if you're just listening to music. 

If I saw my daughter doing this, we'd have a serious conversation.
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
Commentary
If DevOps Is So Awesome, Why Is Your Initiative Failing?
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  12/2/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
The Cloud Gets Ready for the 20's
This IT Trend Report explores how cloud computing is being shaped for the next phase in its maturation. It will help enterprise IT decision makers and business leaders understand some of the key trends reflected emerging cloud concepts and technologies, and in enterprise cloud usage patterns. Get it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll