It’s all in Your Ears!

busy Buchanan Street

Hello, yes, I’m here right next to you! If you actually paid attention to those around you, you might actually see me! Yes, I’m still here, so STOP walking into me!

I lost count of the number of times I had to say this as I walked around the Sydney CBD the other day. The culprits were a mix of women, men, children, young and old. The cause I believe was all due to having iPhone earplugs inserted deep into their ear canals so that they were all happily sojourning in their own audibly cocooned world. Now I need to fess-up here, as I am also one of these earplug scoundrels.

Now this got me thinking. How can these iPhone people collisions be avoided? After all, this is not just a problem isolated to those walking in the city, but also to wearers of earplugs in the corporate office, in the car, and on all other forms of transport involving the movement of iPhone accessorised ears.

Now let’s get back to the basics in nature, and let us consider that humble sonar equipped flying bat, also the water immersed dolphin. Simplistically, the origin of their crash avoidance success is in the use of the “ping” which measures distances via sound wave reflection. I’m sure that if an iPhone earplug was customised for bat and/or dolphin use, these poor creatures would become quite distressed and may lose all sense of their directional dignity and quickly succumb to navigational mayhem, just like us inflicted humans.

But that “ping” might just be the answer? Why not incorporate a basic sonar device into the humble iPhone? That way, the iPhone could measure person proximity and sound a warning alert when two iPhones are getting a tad too close for comfort. On thinking further, this proximity measure could also have “personalised settings” which could include distance, or some other more “creative” requirements, such as:

Tailored Ping Tags
Individuals could establish a tailored ping that tags their personality (eg their star sign, food preferences, appearance prowess, marital status, sexuality, religion, etc). When their iPhone identifies a suitable ping tagged person near them, a distinctive ping tone is heard in the ear plug alerting the owner of the potential person interaction?

Crowd Numbers
When there are a large number of people in a specific area, the result would be a high frequency of pings thereby warning the iPhone owner of the looming crowd. This would be a perfect application for those looking for a quiet location for some thinking solitude, or in selecting a restaurant for a romantic gourmet evening with a loved one, or future loved one!

You may be thinking, “What about those people who are walking around without an iPhone earplug shoved in their ears? How will this innovative crash avoidance system work for them?”

Yes, great question! One solution could be for these people to wear a “ping beacon” which could be strapped to their head, hair, clothes or potentially designed into a fashion accessory, or even moulded into a discrete tooth filling. Should that be too intrusive, then why not have a credit card with a “ping chip” that could be placed in their wallet or carried around in a pocket?

The key with this solution is to think just that little bit differently, and to turn what seems like a tricky problem at first reading into something that might just be useful in the future!

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2 Comments

  1. I find walking home from work each night in Edinburgh I have a constant stream of eejits walking into me not so much because of the earphones but because they insist on walking while looking at and prodding the phone screen. So they walk into people, step out in front of traffic etc. I used to try and weave round them then though it was more fun to let them bounce off of me (those rugby years at school paying off at last!). Read an article which said Japan, despite being so tech-happy, was behind the global curve on adopting smart phones, but in recent years they have been taking to it and having same problem, which they have dubbed “smart phone, dumb walking”, which amuses me.

    In Edinburgh the problem is exacerbated by tourists, who tend to move in slow-moving flocks, taking up the entire pavement and being utterly oblivious to those trying to get past them. I’m working on the “human snow plough” to deal with this – when perfected it will be strapped to the pedestrian and the wedge shaped front will push oblivious tourists and numtpies trying to tweet on their phone while walking out of the way with minimal effort.

    Thanks for using my photo for the post!

    Like

    Reply

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