How Transparent Texting Works


Is this a good solution?

Again, the safest bet is to avoid using the texting or accessing the Internet while walking. But phone use is on the rise and the problem of distracted walking is likely to only get worse.

Transparent texting should be better than the status quo, but you probably still won't be paying strict attention to your surroundings while your mind is engaged in the act of messaging, even if you can essentially see "through" your phone screen. Like the earlier stories of texting and walking accidents, a man in the Philadelphia area was caught on camera falling onto train tracks while talking on the phone. Thankfully no train was coming and he extricated himself. But it is a reminder that all forms of distraction can be dangerous. Our brains just aren't really great at mental multitasking.

You may have to alter your habits a bit to get the most out of the functionality. If you continue to stare downward at the phone, you'll only be seeing the ground, and possibly getting neck strain (which has already been dubbed "text neck"). Holding your mobile device in front of you and looking forward may allow you to read and see the obstacles that are coming up, and maintain better posture. But constant video will drain your battery faster than simply texting, so you might want to keep your charger handy. And if you're on the move all time without a place to plug in, you may be in trouble when it comes to battery life.

More potentially life-saving apps are in the works. The Audio Aware app by One Llama is under development for Android devices as of early 2014. It will use your phone's audio equipment to listen for sounds of danger, like car horns, screaming, screeching tires or sirens. When it hears one of the sounds, it will turn off anything you are listening to and play either the danger sound or canned audio to alert you to pay attention. Another possible upcoming application is CrashAlert, which is being developed at the University of Manitoba. It will reportedly use a depth-sensing camera to spot upcoming obstacles and give you a pop-up warning. The prototype uses an Xbox Kinect, which won't really fit on a phone, so this one would require upgraded phone equipment and is probably a ways off. And, of course, any number of sensors could be integrated into or attached to our phones to detect the things around us. There are all sorts of possibilities. But Apple's transparent texting seems likely to come into being sooner -- if they decide to implement it, that is.

Whether you decide to abstain from staring at your phone while walking or to keep doing it and use technology to make it a little safer, awareness of the danger around you is the first step to avoiding accidents. Transparent texting, or another app like it, can let you see the fast-approaching tree, moving vehicle or manhole you are about to walk into, and maybe keep you from becoming one of those ER statistics.

Author's Note: How Transparent Texting Works

I've caught myself pulling out my phone to multitask while walking the dog or heading to my car at lunch, only to discover that I don't really have the necessary coordination to pull it off -- or that I'm about to step in front of a car. It's sobering. I try very hard to only use the phone while at a stopping point. But seeing what's going on right now on social media or getting those messages out during the downtime of walking is a constant temptation.

When I first read this topic, I thought of Google Glass, then the technology in the movie "Her." Augmented reality and voice activated tech may mitigate this issue to an extent (while probably creating their own problems). And who knows what our phones will be able to do in the future. But while most of us are still too squeamish to speak our texts in public, or too broke to always have the latest phone, transparent texting, or an equivalent downloadable app, might be a good stopgap measure to prevent needless injuries and fatalities. I'll be interested to see if it pops up in the one of the next iOS upgrades. Until then, safe walking, everyone.

Related Articles

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