If you have ever walked into another person or obstacle because you were texting instead of looking ahead, Apple believes it has your solution.
The company recently obtained a U.S. patent for “transparent texting” technology that lets people see where they’re walking as they text on an iPhone, according to mashable.com.
Instead of a white background on the iPhone messages app, users would get a live video image of what’s ahead as viewed from a rear-facing camera. All they have to do is turn on the feature to see what’s on the other side of the iPhone.
Dangers of Texting While Walking
Whether this stops people from injuring themselves while texting and walking remains open for debate. But what is becoming clear is that texting while walking is dangerous. A study by researchers at the University of Washington watched activity at 20 of Seattle’s main intersections and found that “technological and social distractions increase crossing times, with text messaging associated with the highest risk,” according to a mashable.com article.
Pedestrians who were texting took 1.87 more seconds to cross the average intersection with 3.4 lanes than undistracted pedestrians, the article reported. They were four times more likely to pay no attention to lights or to step off the curb before looking both ways.
In Alabama, 77 pedestrians tied in traffic crashes in 2012, down from 79 the previous year but up from 61 in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nine pedestrians died in traffic accidents in Madison County in 2012, up from 6 in 2011.
Whether any Alabama pedestrian deaths were linked to cellphones is unknown. But many people are so dependent on their phones that they check them regularly for messages and calls – even when the phone did not ring or vibrate. Indeed, “transparent texting” could cause people to use their phones more often while walking.
Apple, which filed for its patent in September 2012, isn’t the first company to use this type of technology. Type n Walk for iOS and Walk N Text for Android use similar rear-facing cameras to create a “see-through” cellphone.
Walk N Text asks people not to text while driving because the technology is designed for pedestrians, not motorists.
But even with such technological advances, pedestrians who are walking and texting won’t be as aware of their surroundings as someone who isn’t gazing into their cellphone. That could lead to more situations such as one reported in a suburban California neighborhood where a man was so focused on a texting conversation with his boss that he almost walked into a bear.