You may not be that person, but I'm sure you know someone who is. You're sitting in a movie theater, enjoying the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and the smartphone behind you keeps going off every time a new text is received. After the first two times, you fold your arms in front of you and start clearing your throat in a scolding manner. After five times, you begin channeling your parents by throwing a stern look over your shoulder in the direction of the offending noise. A stern look was enough for you to comply growing up, surely it will work here. Ah, but kids these days. But, when the tenth time hits, you're ready to stand up, wrench the smartphone from defiant hands, and slam it against the movie screen using your well-practiced Bob Turley fastball.
This happens during meetings, too. And, church. And really, any public event where a group of people gathers, there's always at least one person who either forgets to silence their smartphone, or just simply refuses to do so.
Fortunately, Microsoft has an answer for that.
Microsoft recently won a patent for "inconspicuous mode" that works to automatically silence smartphones based on preferences, but also developed to work with your calendar and even recent purchases of tickets.
Inconspicuous mode causes all sounds to be muted, the screen to glow only faintly, notifications to silence, and a new clock-mode with large numbers that makes it easier to tell the time at a glance. In addition to working with calendar events and be manually activated, it can also operate with GPS location (movie theater, restaurant) and environmental conditions such as lighting and noise through new sensors.
From the patent abstract:
A communication device is configured to switch from a normal mode of operation to an inconspicuous mode of operation in which a reduced set of information is presented on a home screen of a display of the device in comparison to a set of information presented on the home screen in the normal mode of operation. In addition, other display properties such as contrast and brightness may be adjusted to make them less conspicuous. The home screen in the inconspicuous mode of operation is less obtrusive or conspicuous to individuals than in the normal mode of operation. The device may enter the inconspicuous mode upon user request or by detecting at least one environmental condition using a sensor available to the mobile communication device. The environmental condition may be anything that the device can detect or sense in its surrounding environment such as ambient light or sound. The device may return to the normal mode of operation by user request or when the environmental condition is no longer present.
Microsoft filed for a similar patent about a year ago, but it wasn't until this latest round of submittals that the company was awarded the patent. There's no word yet when we might see this feature incorporated into smartphones, but could show up as soon as new Windows 10 devices are ready.
And, with Microsoft's recent undertaking to develop across all platforms, could this feature come to iOS and Android, too? We'll see. But, I can tell you I hope it does if for nothing else than the screen dimming function. Have you ever been in a darkened room with someone that owns a Samsung Galaxy Note phablet? The size and brightness of the screen makes me feel like I'm in a dark tunnel directly in the path of an oncoming train.