I suppose I must really care about mobile phones ringing, since this is the third piece I’ve written about it. Maybe it’s just that I really care about auditory pollution. Or that it seems like a problem that affects billions of people and hasn’t been given enough thought.
I often want to silence my phone for an hour or so, while in a meeting or class. However, I know that I’ll forget to turn the ringer back on afterwards. This is a failure of prospective memory (‘remembering to remember’), and it’s something I feel I have almost no control over.
Wouldn’t it be great if one could set one’s phone to be silent for an hour, safe in the knowledge that soon after the meeting ended, you’d be back in business? Isn’t this what we always want?
I can never hear or feel my phone when it rings, no matter how loudly or how insistently hornet-like the trilling and shrilling and buzzing and fuzzing.
For this reason, I got very excited when I heard that they now make a Bluetooth bracelet that buzzes when your phone rings.
Better still though, I’d like a sticky Bluetooth (Gluetooth?) doodad that you could affix to a watchstrap or a belt or a ring that stayed charged by dynamo from the kinetic energy of my movements – that would be much less obtrusive.
- Maybe a cottage industry of hardware repair shops and that specialize in Drobo maintenance and repair will spring up. All to the good. Data Robotics’ expertise and value lies in building products, not providing services. These repair shops customers with reassuring alternatives, become evangelists for the product, and might even add value by building good third-party add-ons.
- Likewise, encourage a developer ecosystem. Someone might even come up with their own distributive algorithm that’s better than Data Robotics’.
- Paradoxically but importantly, by reducing the barrier to exit by making it easier for people to get their data off the Drobo, you actually reduce the barrier to entry.
Everyone hates it when a mobile phone rings in a cinema, classroom or restaurant. Especially if it’s yours.
It’s so easy to forget to mute the ringer. It’s even easier to forget to turn the ringer back on at the end of the lecture. Turning ringers on and off seems beneath us, and beyond us.
Clearly, it would be better if our phone could decide when to ring for itself. This kind of ‘context-awareness’ is actually a very hard problem. Here’s one simple algorithm that might go a long way towards helping.
If my phone can pick up lots of other mobile phones in close proximity, and they’re not moving away, then assume it should be more silent. This covers most of the cases we’d want, where lots of people are sitting together, and no one wants to be disturbed. It excludes cases where we’re walking down the street surrounded by lots of other people, but none of us are sticking around.
I can think of a few cases where this might fall down. If I’m anxiously awaiting a call from the hospital about a loved one, I want the phone to ring wherever I am. If I’m sitting in a noisy coffee shop, I want it to ring loudly, and no one will be particularly disturbed.
Alarm clocks are temporal. They tell you when some time criterion has been reached. They’re very useful.
But often, I really want an alarm with a spatial criterion – a location alarm. Let’s consider some possible uses:
- Beep shrilly if anyone tries to steal this device from its current location. [I think there are accelerometer-based programs for laptops that do this]
- I’m snoozing on the train – wake me up when we get near Penn Station. [This is where I first came up with the idea].
- Give me a kick if I’m still in my office when I’m supposed to have left for that meeting. After all, I don’t need the alarm to go off if I’m already on my way to the meeting. [though that’s a combination space + time criterion]
This would make for an obvious and delightful iPhone app. I haven’t found one yet, but I haven’t looked hard either.
UPDATE: there are some really superb suggestions in the comments, and in Hacker News that take this idea much further. I particularly liked these:
- R.J.: Google Maps needs this so when I’m walking down the street I don’t have to pay attention to street address numbers/keep my eyes glued to the screen.
- Frankus: Maybe something like that could tell me when I’m close to the grocery store that I need to buy milk.
- Frankus: A game where you try and assassinate your friends by setting imaginary time bombs to go off at a particular location when you think your friend will be there.
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