back to article Sick of walking into things while gawping at your iPhone? Apple has a patent app. for that

Apple has applied for a patent for technology that will warn of oncoming dangers to users distracted by their text messages. An application submitted by the company to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (rooted out by AppleInsider) describes a user interface that displays transparent text messages over a live video …


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  1. xerocred

    Imagine the court case if it fails to work once.

    1. MrDamage


      If that failure to work involves an iZombie crossing the road in front of a bus.

      iPizza anyone?

      1. Psyx

        Re: Especially

        Or y'know... people could be held accountable for their own actions.

        Nah: that'll never fly.

        OTOH, maybe it's a cunning ruse to avoid being sued by people walking under buses: Provide a mildly mitigating piece of software (or 'app' as all the cool kids are calling them, I hear) and make the EULA basically say "By installing this software you are agreeing never to sue us for not looking where you are going". In which case it's quite a clever idea, because I bet they currently get sued at least fifty times a year by people flattening their faces against lamp-posts.

  2. Scoular

    There is actually a serious problem as reported by police of people walking in front of cars whilst busy on the phone.

    However Mr Darwin pointed out that it may be for the best. There are plenty of people.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      cars tend to hit people from the side rather than the front. this wouldnt help in the slightest.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Is that not assuming thought processes are genetic? Last time I checked, they are down to personal actions. Evolution don't select for that, less your thinking of:

      Though if no one left wishes to use phones, it leaves no one left using phones. That is not passed down genetically though, more social and economic reasons.


  3. Ben 54


    Not sure how isheep hold their phones while texting, but if it is like normal do. then the camera will show a fabulous stream of the pavement.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Uhm,,,

      "stream of the pavement."

      No, the way I read the patent there is a third camera (marked 300 on the diagram) that points up out of the top of the camera, so if you're holding the phone flat it would face forwards.

      Except, of course, if, like me, you hold the phone at a bit of an angle and all you would see is the tops of trees, signposts, tops of high-rises, sky etc. Or if, like many people I know, you hold the phone in landscape mode while texting to make use of a bigger kaypad, in which case you'll get a real close-up view of the car you stepped out in front of just before it clobbers you.

      What they need is a fish-eye lens!!

      EDIT: on checking teh link to teh actual patent it seems that the '300' label is referring to the whole phone itself, so no additional camera - therefore, as many posters have pointed out, it's both useless AND prior-arted.

      1. Shonko Kid

        Re: Uhm,,,

        Quick, file both those ideas as additional patents!

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Uhm,,,

      Nonononono you don't get it. T's with tablets that it will be hillarious.

      I really hope this hits the streets soon. Imagine how fun it will be, all these iPad users holding their shiny stuff vertical at eye tlevel to text. If you thought that people look a bit like dorks when they take pictures with their tablets, then this system will make you cringe so hard it'll become funny.

      Not to mention that they'll need to shackle the thing to their wrist, as people holding a $800 piece of kit in front of them at arm's length will be a delight for hit-and-run thieves...

  4. ratfox
    Thumb Down


    My idea to use echolocation to warn the user of incoming lampposts is much better.

    And by the way, unless somebody filed a patent for that already, this post will count as prior art. I'll stuff a few keywords to make it easier for the experts to find it: Cell phone echolocation radar sonar detection lamppost wall advance warning system bullshit.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Ridiculous

      Your idea is better and more along the idea of what I'd expected when I saw the title of the article. Whatever system, I can imagine it getting hacked and one day after some people have gotten used to relying on it, there will be a lineup at emergency of people with broken noses.

    2. Tim Bates

      Re: Ridiculous

      If it helps you, I thought that was what the patent was going to be about...

      While you're calling prior art, feel free to add in this post - whereby I describe additional data from the GPS, accelerometers and other sensors to assist in determining various parameters relating to the object and it's position in relation to the phone.

  5. Andrew Jones 2

    Well.... I guess the next patent will be for a car battery in a rucksack that will need to be worn to keep the phone powered while the camera is live and drawing continuous updates to the screen.....

    I know for the average user it shouldn't make a lot of a difference - but this is for texters - and they can easily spend 2 - 3 hours over the course of a day staring at the screen while texting..... but for fairness - let's say an hour. Well 1 hour of the camera process running is bad enough - but I'm sure you are all well aware than even having the camera open for a few minutes causes the device to get rather warm.

    Ooo - I think I'll file a patent for a portable handwarmer app.

  6. Shades

    Prior Art

    There's already an app for Android, called Transparent Screen, that does this by taking the entire phones screen - no matter what the app, so SMS apps are included - reduces its alpha by a user specified amount and composites it over the camera feed. And its been available since before 2012, when Apple submitted the patent.

    I just may go and make a prior art claim with the USPTOs online service! *runs and hides from the incoming shit storm from Apple fanbois!* :D

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: Prior Art

      There's been an iPhone app available since 2009

      (still only shows the feet though!)

      1. Shades

        Re: Prior Art

        The problem with that app is Apple have an army of weasels that would argue that black is white, up is down and that particular app is/was for email and not SMS; Email 'n Walk

        The Android app meanwhile works with everything, including SMS apps, so is probably a better bet to claim prior art with.

        1. Ivan Headache

          Re: Prior Art

          But there was also another called Text 'n Walk at the same time.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Prior Art

            Especially for Apple users - is there one called "chew gum and think at the same time" ?

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Prior Art

          The problem with that app is Apple have an army of weasels that would argue that black is white,

          So they'll get killed on the next zebra crossing, no? How appropriate.

          1. Roo

            Re: Prior Art

            "The problem with that app is Apple have an army of weasels that would argue that black is white,

            So they'll get killed on the next zebra crossing, no? How appropriate."

            Lovely thought, but sadly those particular Weasels don't do stuff like being pedestrian. ;)

    2. Number6

      Re: Prior Art

      I thought I'd seen the idea before.

    3. Colin Miller

      Re: Prior Art

      The idea is not exactly "non-obvious to those well versed in the art", or whatever the test is.

    4. MacGyver

      Re: Prior Art

      Not only prior art, but brutally freaking obvious in design. They don't own the patent for the screen, camera, or app running, yet using all three at once somehow grants them a patentable design? Can I patent a system for walking while using an umbrella?

      WTF patent office? Not only should they not get a patent, but they should receive a fine for attempting it, and the mouth-breather that gave them the patent should be fired.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Prior Art

        WTF patent office? Not only should they not get a patent, but they should receive a fine for attempting it, and the mouth-breather that gave them the patent should be fired.

        Ok, breathe, relax, ...7, 8, 9, 10. Good. This is only a patent application at this time, no patent has been granted, there is no reason to work up your blood pressure. There is a chance, granted very small, that this won't stick when thrown against the wall and it will be just a good laugh at Apple's blatant attempt at ripping off one of their app developers. Don't get me wrong, they'll still rip off the dev by incorporating the functionality into the iPhone and dump the app because it duplicates system functionality or whatever that particular hurdle is.

    5. druck Silver badge

      Re: Prior Art

      There was RoadSMS when I had my first Android phone, amusement value of at least 3 seconds.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it April 1st already? Normally you'd have it facing down, so you can see your own feet. The moment something else appears on the screen, you've already bumped into it. And if you face it forward, then your peripheral vision will certainly work better than the camera.

    This is about the biggest piece of bollocks I've heard about in a long time. Probably that's why nobody else has thought about patenting it before. Well played, Apple. Not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Need a third camera

      If there was one angled at 45* forward from the back (or down from the side) it would be more useful.

      But no, I don't want to see them waste money putting in a camera that is only for idiots who walk and text at the same time without looking up. If for no other reason than because it is funny seeing the occasional video where someone walks down a manhole or off a pier while texting!

  8. quartzie

    USPTO awarding crap, as usual

    I know they are busy with all those patent assertions of late, but there's at least one example of direct prior art here in the comments. Reckon a google search would have revealed that in about 10 seconds and thrown out this ridiculous iPatent as it should have been?

  9. Fluffy Bunny

    Stupidity rules

    This is the most stupid thing I have ever read. Notwithstanding the claims of prior art, it is a well-known fact that people concentrating on a task, such as writing an SMS, will exclude all other input. Even if it is on a screen behind the very text they are writing.

  10. Mitoo Bobsworth

    Darwin Award anyone?

    "Hmmm... according to my iPhone, there's an approaching....."

    screeEEECH - SPLAT!

    Assisted Stupidity.

  11. southpacificpom


    Well considering Darwin OS backends crapple products then every iDiot user is a potential candidate for the Darwin Awards.

    "The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it"

    Enough said...

  12. Graham Triggs


    You could just stop being a dick and pay attention to what you are doing.

    Remember that? The time before smart / mobile phones? When people actually paid attention to what was going on around them instead of playing with a lump of plastic?

    1. Sander van der Wal

      Re: Or...

      You're kidding. Man for instance have been walking into lamp posts while looking at an attractive member of the interesting sex since the invention of the lamp post.

      Hey, there's a thought. An app that is capable of pointing out an attractive member of the interesting sex is walking by while you are looking at some boring letters.

      1. Alister

        Re: Or...

        Man for instance have been walking into lamp posts while looking at an attractive member of the interesting sex since the invention of the lamp post.

        Exactly, they're approaching this from the wrong angle (HA)

        It's obvious that lamp posts, telegraph poles, cars, buses and buildings should be outlawed immediately, and removed.

        Don't they know that it's Man's god-given right to wander around wherever they want to whilst staring at pointless shit on their expensive toy, without fear of let or hindrance...

  13. Lionel Baden

    You bloody humans are stupid !!

    And that goes for the bloke who walked out into the road without looking, with his face buried in a burger, and gave me a dirty look for braking as hard as possible and saving him some considerable pain !

    this is not going to help its just going to make people think its ok !

  14. Crisp

    Or they could just use Google Glass...

    Just saying...

    ...ok ok! I'm going!

    1. shane fitzgerald

      Re: Or they could just use Google Glass...

      Surely google glass is in trouble with prior art like this???

  15. Psyx


    Those text messages are all grammatically correct, with proper use of apostrophes.

    Pure science fiction.

  16. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Life needed!

    It's a self correcting problem. iZombies and ZombieDroids get mowed down and the gene pool benefits, those who have the prior art please submit all of it to the USPTO asap! That way I will get to continue watching people walk into lampposts, bus shelters and funniest of all into bollards which for many seem to be right at bollards height! <rotflmno>

  17. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Is there an app to speed up those morons who think they can walk and use their phone at the same time, but actually walk slower than an old fat lady with a shopping trolley.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is it me?

      Something that is really getting my goat (now there's a phrase that needs some explaining to foreigners) is the growing tendency for women - especially those with fat arses - to start texting the moment they step onto the stairs after getting off a train.

      May be they've always done it - it's just that now I'm always behind one!

  18. Carpetsmoker

    Nice try. Won't work.

    While this is a nice try, but I'm afraid it won't work very well. It *might* make a small difference, but I would surprised if it would be very large.

    The problem isn't so much what you *see*, it's what you *pay attention to*. If you're paying attention to your text messages, you're not paying attention to whatever is in front of you. Our brains also can't really do two things at once very well. (many studies published on this).

    To make matters worse, humans have a very limited vision, we only see a centimetre at arm's length in focus, the rest is composed of memory & expectations; our brain fools our conciousness rather well.

  19. M7S

    It really could be the fabled "Killer App" should provide some clues as to why

    Probably transferred from a Video Casette Recorder, whatever that is..... ;)

  20. an it guy

    peripheral vision

    use it (or lose it -- potentially)

    'nuff said

  21. NotWorkAdmin


    So I can mount the phone on the windscreen and never have to bother looking away from the phone ever again while I'm driving. That's been bugging me for ages because it's simply not possible to ignore a text and read it a few minutes later when it's safe and convenient to do so.

    My boss is good at this - I'll be having a meeting with him to discuss something unimportant (next years projected sales, IT requirements) and we'll be interrupted because an important text from his wife about where they're having dinner tonight arrives.

  22. SMK8

    Blackberry already has a solution...

    Not that anyone cares...


  23. Kubla Cant Silver badge


    What's the significance of the bizarre exchange of cow-related messages? Is this an Internet meme I've missed out on?

    Do txters have an unusual dread of cows?

    And why does the message "But why should I hide?" apparently precede the warning about the cow? Is it because of predictive text?

  24. G.Y.

    I have tried out an app like this on my iPhone 3G in 2009-2010. "EmailNwalk" if I remember right.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow, talk about arrogance...

    ...or perhaps it's incompetence?

    Now Apple wants to patent things that are already available from third parties in their app store! Can you say "prior art"? I knew you could!

    'Type and Walk' was reviewed almost two years ago. At the time, I thought it was a joke. And I know I've seen similar things for Android.

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