Apple's 'transparent texting' tech lets iPhone users safely message while moving

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2014
Apple is looking into technology that offers users an easier, safer, way to text and walk by making an iPhone's screen "transparent" during messaging operations through the clever use of live video.

Transparent


To enable a "transparent texting" system, Apple proposes that an app's background be modified to display video images continuously captured by an iPhone's rear-facing camera, according to a patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday.

Due to their inherently mobile nature, smartphones are often used while moving. This is fine for voice calls, but could be problematic for operations that demand visual attention like reading or writing text messages. Aside from appearing antisocial, texting could potentially cause bodily harm if a user operates their device while walking.

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If smartphones were to have a transparent display, or a system that offers the illusion of transparency, users would be more aware of their surroundings.

The implementation as described by Apple is quite simple. A device uses its rear-facing camera to continuously capture video and present the images as a background within a text messaging app currently being displayed. The onscreen result would be offer the illusion of a transparent display with floating text.

In one embodiment, the live video background is displayed behind the usual dynamic user interface seen in iMessage, complete with colored bubbles denoting a chat session between two or more people. These bubbles may be opaque or, in some cases, partially transparent to allow greater visibility of the live background.

Transparent
Source: USPTO


The system can be activated via an in-app button that transforms the GUI from the normal white background to a live video version.

Extending the application beyond messaging apps, the live video feed can be used in other situations requiring a significant amount of visual concentration. For example, the implementation may be an option in the use of mobile Web browsers, where text and images would float over the live-view background. Another embodiment covers e-book readers such as Apple's iBooks.

While not a completely foolproof system (users must point the iPhone camera straight ahead while walking for full visibility), Apple's invention proves the company is actively investigating unique ways to leverage existing hardware technology for the purpose of enhancing the mobile device experience.

It is unknown if Apple is planning to work such a feature into its next iOS build, but the tech required to enable similar functionality is already in place. A transparent texting window could even be considered a good fit with the new "flat," layered iOS 7 design aesthetic.

Apple's transparent texting patent application was first filed for in 2012 and credits Stephen T. Payne as its inventor.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    am8449am8449 Posts: 376member
    Very clever idea! Even if you're not pointing it straight forward, it can help you avoid tripping or if you're in New York, stepping on dog doo.
  • Reply 2 of 36
    There are tons of apps in the store that already do this%u2026 for instance this one https://itunes.apple.com/pt/app/text-n-walk-see-as-you-type/id424349962?l=en&mt=8 was posted before this patent was filed%u2026 yey patents!
  • Reply 3 of 36
    thedbathedba Posts: 689member

    What ever happened to the age old expression, "Watch where you're going"?

  • Reply 4 of 36
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    thedba wrote: »
    What ever happened to the age old expression, "Watch where you're going"?

    True. Not to mention why enable irresponsible behavior? Does this mean you will be able to sue apple if you get hit by a car or fall into a ditch now?
  • Reply 5 of 36
    Great, Apple!

    And I need a easier, safer, way to text email and SMS while drinking hot coffee, shaving and driving my car too!
  • Reply 6 of 36
    ajbdtc826ajbdtc826 Posts: 190member
    whatever- wrote: »
    There are tons of apps in the store that already do this%u2026 for instance this one https://itunes.apple.com/pt/app/text-n-walk-see-as-you-type/id424349962?l=en&mt=8 was posted before this patent was filed%u2026 yey patents!

    There was that "Text n Talk" app many years ago but all anybody did was make fun of how stupid the users were. how cultures can change so quickly!
  • Reply 7 of 36
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,924member
    Apple should just shock the hell out of you when you start moving and texting. Pay the F attention!
  • Reply 8 of 36
    carthusiacarthusia Posts: 583member

    I had an app that did this when I got my first iPhone, the 3G (no S)....I used it once. 

  • Reply 9 of 36
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    Depending on the language in the patent, could this maybe cover transparency of text over a video view when wearing video display glasses?

    Wearable displays with embedded cameras are inevitable. Whether Apple is doing them is the real question.
  • Reply 10 of 36
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    I don't see how this is patentable given the amount of prior art going back years.  I'ts not a new idea.

  • Reply 11 of 36
    petripetri Posts: 108member
    Definitely not a new idea at all and something I was using on my iPhone 3G (or maybe 3GS) years ago. Very weird that Apple would patent this when clearly the patent would never stand up to any challenge and apps doing this have been in their own AppStore for a long time.
  • Reply 12 of 36
    There's a great new app called "Discretion." It turns texting off while you're moving...
  • Reply 13 of 36
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,715member
    Most texting walkers have the phone at a 45 degree angle downwards. Not sure how much benefit this idea gives to current devices.
  • Reply 14 of 36
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,536member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     

    I don't see how this is patentable given the amount of prior art going back years.  I'ts not a new idea.




    Yes, probably a different kind of implementation, but the idea itself isn't new at all, and I don't see what this patent adds to what other apps have been doing before.

    Nothing essentially new anyway.

  • Reply 15 of 36
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,639member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     

    I don't see how this is patentable given the amount of prior art going back years.  I'ts not a new idea.


    Ideas are not supposed to be patentable, only the implementation of those ideas.    And we don't know what methods Apple is using.   It's the method that is entitled to the patent (or not, as the case may be).

     

    As far as the idea itself goes, I'm not sure it makes any practical sense and this may be a disguise for some other purpose.    Many people who walk and text have the phone almost parallel with the ground.     That's not going to help one see traffic or other people.    This would only work if there was a camera that "floated" and always faced forward.    

  • Reply 16 of 36
    (unsubstantiated claims of) safer %u2260 safe
  • Reply 17 of 36
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 678member
    It's all fun until someone tries to swipe away the Mack truck bearing down on their texting experience...
  • Reply 18 of 36

    love that they used "facepalm" in a patent application :)

  • Reply 19 of 36
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post



    Most texting walkers have the phone at a 45 degree angle downwards. Not sure how much benefit this idea gives to current devices.

    For this...

     

  • Reply 20 of 36
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    ajbdtc826 wrote: »
    There was that "Text n Talk" app many years ago but all anybody did was make fun of how stupid the users were. how cultures can change so quickly!

    It instantly becomes a great, and novel idea when Apple does it.
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