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Microsoft Patents Tech That Would Silence Your Phone For You 251

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-quiet dept.
tsamsoniw writes "Microsoft has filed a patent for a mobile technology called Inconspicuous Mode, aimed at helping you not be 'that guy' who disrupts movies, meals, or meetings with noisy, bright-screened phone alerts. It's a setting that would effectively put your phone in stealth mode when the device sensed it was in a movie theater (thanks to location information) and that the lights had gone down. The idea is, you could still receive alerts if a call or text came in, but no one around you would be disturbed by phone sounds or screen flashes."
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Microsoft Patents Tech That Would Silence Your Phone For You

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  • Already got it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:30PM (#42585027)

    I already have a phone that does this. As someone who is aware of my surroundings and generally conscientious, I simply turn my phone to "vibrate" or even - God forbid - OFF... It works very well indeed. And I even still receive alerts if a call or text came in. Amazing technology.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by amRadioHed (463061)

      You turn your phone to off, and still get alerts if a call or text come in? That is amazing!

      • Re:Already got it. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:01PM (#42585393) Homepage

        The missus already programmed her Android phone to engage in location based auto configuration. She uses it for power management but certainly the same principles can be use for "do not be a jerk" purposes.

        A lame *ss software patent for the USPTO. Whodathunkit?

        • Re:Already got it. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dishevel (1105119) on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:39PM (#42585743)

          I love Tasker for this kind of thing.
          Turning on wifi at home and at work.
          Toggling GPS off when battery power gets low.
          Guess though would would need some kind of patent on stuff like this to use it on iOS or Windows Phone 8.
          On Android though Tasker has been on every one of my phones for a few years now.

      • When you are at a movie, do you even want incoming calls or notifications of anything? I sure as hell wouldn't.

        Even then, with Google Voice you can still receive text messages and a list of missed calls even if you have your phone either turned off or in airplane mode to enjoy a movie while saving battery juice; you'll just be left alone for the duration of the movie (I see that as an advantage, not a disadvantage...), but as soon as the phone is connected again you'll be able to read and reply to any text

    • Re:Already got it. (Score:5, Informative)

      by iamhassi (659463) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:45PM (#42585189) Journal

      I already have a phone that does this. As someone who is aware of my surroundings and generally conscientious, I simply turn my phone to "vibrate" or even - God forbid - OFF... It works very well indeed. And I even still receive alerts if a call or text came in. Amazing technology.

      Yes Apple already patented the technology, silencing the phone based on GPS location. [appleinsider.com] Similar to geofencing that came out in iOS 5

      • Re:Already got it. (Score:5, Informative)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:57PM (#42585347) Homepage Journal

        I already have a phone that does this. As someone who is aware of my surroundings and generally conscientious, I simply turn my phone to "vibrate" or even - God forbid - OFF... It works very well indeed. And I even still receive alerts if a call or text came in. Amazing technology.

        Yes Apple already patented the technology, silencing the phone based on GPS location. [appleinsider.com] Similar to geofencing that came out in iOS 5

        Cute, Apple patents something in 2012 that I've had on my Android phone since 2010 (little app called WhereRing). That sort of thing never happens.

        Minor bitch, a script that takes input from existing sensors and uses said input to cause a particular action in existing hardware is not what I would refer to as "technology."

        "Bloody obvious" would be a good alternate term.

        • Sounds like a case for the StackExchange Patents site.
        • by hondo77 (324058)
          In all fairness to Apple, that patent was filed in 2008.
          • by gl4ss (559668)

            I remember having this app for my s60 phone around 2003.. merkitys/meaning was the name.

            you could program things based on context.. based on gps(bt-dongle) or cellid(_no_ extra power use, the app would get woken by the os only on cellid changes..).

        • Minor bitch, a script that takes input from existing sensors and uses said input to cause a particular action in existing hardware is not what I would refer to as "technology."

          What? I have seen some teams use the word technology to describe replacing a std::vector data member with an std::multimap data member.

          Pointy-haired-team-lead: "Coming the defect DR-34123 Record selection dialog slows down as the number of selections increase on large data sets. We have implemented a new optimal datastructure technology in the module foo...".

      • by Drethon (1445051)

        I already have a phone that does this. As someone who is aware of my surroundings and generally conscientious, I simply turn my phone to "vibrate" or even - God forbid - OFF... It works very well indeed. And I even still receive alerts if a call or text came in. Amazing technology.

        Yes Apple already patented the technology, silencing the phone based on GPS location. [appleinsider.com] Similar to geofencing that came out in iOS 5

        Please pay Apple $2 every time you use their idea. Just because you press a button rather than use an app does not negate that it is THEIR idea.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:52PM (#42585279) Homepage

      No, this is also about shutting down somebody else's annoying phone.

      Which I can do, too - it's amazing what you can accomplish with a simple sledgehammer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It may not be as elegant, but flipping the smartphone to vibrate is good enough for me.

      I like having my device notify me on my terms. On Android, I can have the device not ring or alert at certain times of the night. On iOS, Do Not Disturb mode is similar.

      Geolocation is interesting, but there are a number of issues. If I'm passing by a movie theater and needing to get an important call, will the device give me the option to ignore the marked location, or will it think it is better than I and mute the pho

      • Re:Already got it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bugs2squash (1132591) on Monday January 14, 2013 @05:31PM (#42586297)
        I occasionally go to movies and leave my kids with a babysitter. She has my number and I expect a call if something really bad comes up that she needs to deal with (after she dials 911) and the kids have my number too. If the movie theater were to deliberately cause me to miss such a call I would sue their ass regardless of whatever legal crap they posted in their "conditions of ticket sale" fine print.
        I'm sure I'm not alone.
        • Re:Already got it. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday January 14, 2013 @07:20PM (#42587293)

          You're so spoiled. Mobile phones have only been commonplace about 15 years and already people talk about them as if they have an inalienable right to be connected everywhere at any time.

          People were able to cope with leaving their kids with a babysitter in the 1990s and earlier you know. Without going all prima donna and threatening lawyers.

    • Yup and I can also detect when I'm in a movie theater or automatically adjust it when I see a No Cell Phones signs. Its amazing what we humans can do by ourselves.

    • Dunno why anybody would need sound or flashes at all. Well, except for when you are home, that is. Otherwise it just annoys people around, while not helping you very much.
    • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Monday January 14, 2013 @05:15PM (#42586123) Homepage Journal

      As someone who is aware of my surroundings and generally conscientious, I simply turn my phone to "vibrate" or even - God forbid - OFF... It works very well indeed.

      I agree with you, in this particular case. But there will be situations where I find something trivial and obvious that you find to be a pain in the ass, and vice-versa. Once person might say "I'm aware of what I'm watching and it's trivial and foolproof to press fast-forward on my Tivo remote when there's a commercial" and the other person might say "I shouldn't have to do that or think about that, when I'm trying to concentrate on the actresses' boobies, so mythfrontend should automatically commercial-skip for me." One person might say "I want a padlock icon when it is a totally sure thing (except for a glossed-over list of exceptions, all of which I want to always be un-acknowledged) there is no MitM attack, and I want lack of an icon when the certainty is less than 100.00%; I don't want to think about grey areas and degrees of certainty" and another person might prefer a realistic UI which says "MiTM is probably not happening" or "MitM is very very likely not happening" or "The level of conspiracy required for a MitM right now, has precedent." or "You only have one stranger's assurance that nothing shady is going on, and betrayal would require no conspiracy at all."

      We say just a little awareness and common sense solves the problem, maybe because our phones happen to be something we sometimes think about, for whatever reasons that have emerged from our personal quirks. Someone else says "I shouldn't have to be aware of something as unimportant as the current sleep/wake state of one of my pocket computers, among the dozen items I happen to be carrying." If eyeglasses or shoes or hats sometimes spontaneously started screaming in response to external activity, that same person might want the behavior automatically suppressed at some times, whereas you and I would probably raise an eyebrow at the thought of ever buying a screaming hat in the first place, because we already have enough to worry about (our phones) without having to worry about screaming hats.

      Different strokes for different folks.

      • by Sepodati (746220)

        Different strokes for different folks.

        lol... you know the groupthink here is the only right way.

        I'd rather see some kind of signal being sent that you can set to alert, or automatically accept or always ignore rather than location-based services, but location is easier to deal with for now, I'm sure. I agree that this shouldn't be something patentable unless it's a very unique implementation... and even then probably not.

        • by Sepodati (746220)

          Actually, from reading further down it looks like there is a claim 6 that triggers this based on a signal from a wifi access point.

    • by dudpixel (1429789)

      What if this patent is so that the phone can do it without your approval?

      That changes the ball game I think.

      I'm all for my phone being smart, but only when I tell it to, or only when I'm aware of it, and when I'm ultimately in control of what it does.

  • by Kittenman (971447) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:31PM (#42585031)
    Or silent mode...
  • by alen (225700) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:33PM (#42585059)

    people drive like asswipes because they think the world revolves around them

    same here, the people disrupting the movie won't care about this. and probably won't enable it even if their phone had it.

    the only solution is to wait two weeks or more until after a movie comes out to see it in an almost empty theater

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)
      or... you can ignore those people... or you can accidentally trip over them, dislodge their cell phone and step on it... woops.
      • by crutchy (1949900)

        or you can grab it off them and throw it against a wall, and then say "oh man i thought you had a spider on you"

        • by alen (225700)

          and they can call the theater security and have them call the cops for stealing and destroying your property

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:07PM (#42585445) Homepage

      the people disrupting the movie won't care about this.

      Even if they did, they'd still answer and say "I can't talk, I'm in the cinema... Really? No way, dude!! Haha. So what did he do next??? You're kidding me!!! " etc.

    • by icebike (68054) on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:10PM (#42585483)

      the people disrupting the movie won't care about this. and probably won't enable it even if their phone had it.

      Most of the people who disrupt movies are not jerks, just forgetful, or they came in a few seconds late and missed the ever present "Cell Phone Off" request that appears on the screen in every theater I've been to in the last 5 years.

      This would save a lot of embarrassment and I suspect a lot of people would turn it on if it worked properly.

      If they do get it working properly, I'd like to see it on by default, with the setting to turn it off buried 5 menus deep. That would keep the clueless users who can't figure out how to silence their phones from being able to defeat it without the manual.

      • Most of the people who disrupt movies are not jerks, just forgetful, or they came in a few seconds late and missed the ever present "Cell Phone Off" request that appears on the screen in every theater I've been to in the last 5 years.

        *Raises hand*

        I'm someone who chastises friends who look at text messages or answer their phones during a movie. A couple weeks ago for the first time in my life, I forgot to silence my phone before a movie started. It's startling and embarrassing as all hell, but not intentional.

        That said, I have met people who seriously just do not care -- they think having it on vibrate is good enough, and if they duck down and talk low enough that nobody will see or hear them. I'd guess there are probably more asshole

        • by icebike (68054)

          I'd guess there are probably more assholes like this than forgetfuls like me.

          But that would be the wrong comparison, would it not?

          Since these assholes are (for the moment at least) a small minority of those in the theater, you have to count all those that light up their phones only AFTER the movie IS OVER as non-assholes. And the forgetful, like yourself, as accidental deviations from the non-asshole group.

          That puts the thing in proper prospective I think. Where are those ushers with the merciless flashlight that I remember from my youth?

      • Most of the people who disrupt movies are not jerks, just forgetful.

        Yes, the ringers are forgetful (and thus forgivable), but the texters who insist on blinding the whole theater are just outright jerks. Seriously folks... either go to the lobby or wait and read it later.

    • by bitt3n (941736) on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:48PM (#42585833)

      the only solution is to wait two weeks or more until after a movie comes out to see it in an almost empty theater

      that's what I do. otherwise there's always some jerk who thinks it's funny to throw popcorn at me while I'm trying to talk on the phone.

    • That reminds me: is it safe to go see The Hobbit yet?
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:33PM (#42585061) Homepage

    as opposed to just sitting in your dark pocket?

    • Everyone will have some of THESE [cnet.com]

      Just when you thought they had already invented every phone accessory possible, the come up with special pants.
      • Everyone will have some of THESE [cnet.com] Just when you thought they had already invented every phone accessory possible, the come up with special pants.

        Kneejerk reaction: That's got to be the dumbest, first-world-problem product I've ever seen!

        Secondary reaction: Hey, those would be damn handy for secret games of Angry Birds on those "Death By Meeting" days...

    • 3. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 1 wherein the at least one ambient condition is selected from the group consisting of ambient light and ambient sound.
      6. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 1 further comprising: detecting a signal from a wireless local area network communication having a network identifier indicating that the mobile communication device should enter the inconspicuous mode; and switching to the inconspicuous mode when the signal is detected.

      Claim 3 and 6 of the patent indicate it is looking at light, sound, or a wifi signal.

      • by mrbester (200927)

        I turn my phone face down so the gyroscope and proximity / light sensors trigger to silence it. Prior art, anyone?

  • ....but I guess you have to play the game.
    • ....but I guess you have to play the game.

      Only if you intend to perpetuate it.

      "I must do evil, because everyone else does" is not a valid excuse, and only serves to eternalize douche-baggery.

      • Sorry, that's not how it works. People with power and money make the rules, and you don't get power or money without playing the game. Resistance is futile if they get violent, unless you get violent back. (See: World War II. Unless you want to live in a world run by the Nazi Party, "doing evil" in the form of killing was the right thing to do. No, this is not invoking Godwin.)
  • Tasker (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't tasker already let you do this?

  • I thought hammers have been known for centuries, how did they manage a patent on that?
    • by Minwee (522556)

      I thought hammers have been known for centuries, how did they manage a patent on that?

      The same way you patent anything else, by adding the words "over the Internet" to its description.

  • by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:49PM (#42585245)

    I own and operate a movie theatre. I have policy trailers that I play before every show telling you to turn your cell phone off. If I see a light from a cell phone while the show is on, I'll go in and ask you to turn it off until the show is over. If I see your light again, I'll ask you to come to the lobby with me, and when you get there I'll tell you to go home.

    Since I have been doing this for years, ever since cell phones existed, I have very little problem with cell phones here.

    Consistent enforcement is the answer. I have to tell maybe one or two people a month to turn their phones off, sometimes I can go a few months without having to do it once. And I can't remember the last time I threw someone out for that -- it's been at least a couple of years.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      If I see a light from a cell phone while the show is on, I'll go in and ask you to turn it off until the show is over.

      How do you handle it when the theatre is near full and the offender is in the middle of a row?

      How do you handle it when the customer declines to get up out of his chair and leave the theatre at your request?

      Forgive my skepticism, but the approach you outline here sounds like it would only work on people who are courteous enough not to use their phones in a theate in the first place.

      • How do you handle it when the theatre is near full and the offender is in the middle of a row?

        That's usually not a problem since the people around him/her will tell that person to turn the phone off. If not, I'll "excuse me" past the crowd in that row and do it myself. 45 seconds of disruption from me going in and out is better than the rest of the movie with a light shining in that row.

        How do you handle it when the customer declines to get up out of his chair and leave the theatr

    • by sdguero (1112795)
      I saw The Hobbit at an AMC theater a couple weeks ago with my girl. A young couple came in about 5 minutes after the movie started, sat in front of us, then proceeded to start taking flash photos of themselves with both of their phones. Other than people in the audience, who were blinded by the flash, nobody from the theater said anything to them. They also talked continuously until they walked out, about 45 minutes later.

      This last weekend I saw Django Unchained with my girl. The theater was almost full
    • by mug funky (910186)

      install a faraday cage? i'd like to see one in action in a cinema.

    • by Squeebee (719115)

      I have a few questions about your experiences, any chance you can email me (your email is not showing), I'd appreciate your insights.

  • by Farmer Pete (1350093) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:50PM (#42585255)
    There are several programs that can be set to automate your phone like this. The problem is that location awareness isn't as good inside a movie theater as you might hope. For instance, I live about a half a mile away from the nearest megaplex. I setup a rule on my phone to turn off the ringer and wifi when the phone is at the address of the cinema. However, the rule kept triggering when I was sitting in my living room. Even if I didn't live so close, if I was shopping at the stores next door, my phone would be going to vibrate mode automatically. I've found that doing location based things only works well if your location isn't near anything else. For instance, I work in the middle of nowhere. I set a rule to turn off WiFi & bluetooth from 8am to 4:45pm when I'm at my work location. Works great to save battery. But for the movies, I still set it manually.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:50PM (#42585261) Homepage

    Currently, using wifi location, my phone thinks it is on the other side of the road from where it actually is. Accurate enough to find the nearest bus stop or whatever I'm looking for, but certainly not accurate enough to know that I am actually inside a particular screening room of a theatre rather than out in the foyer or in a shop next door. As I'm indoors, GPS or Glonass location isn't an option, and even if it was, it still isn't accurate enough for that.

    • The problem for location services in theaters is that to improve the reliability you have to do something that is counter productive to encouraging people to NOT use their phones. Location services are most accurate when the the handset can see multiple satellites. Under those conditions accuracy can get below 5 meters. When the handset can't accurately determine it's location from satellites it falls back to towers. So if theater owners really wanted your cell phone to know where it was they would inst

  • The room should tell my phone that there's a movie, meeting, et al. going on (based on a published schedule)

    Calls should have a priority

    The phone should respond appropriately based on the situation and priority of the call

    For example: a low priority call might go to voice mail if I'm in the middle of a meeting, but make the phone ring if the same call happened after the meeting is over. A high priority call could make the phone vibrate or ring depending on the situation and my preferences.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      The room should tell my phone that there's a movie, meeting, et al. going on (based on a published schedule)

      Calls should have a priority

      The phone should respond appropriately based on the situation and priority of the call

      For example: a low priority call might go to voice mail if I'm in the middle of a meeting, but make the phone ring if the same call happened after the meeting is over. A high priority call could make the phone vibrate or ring depending on the situation and my preferences.

      Yeah, I'd rather see this - have businesses install a short-range beacon to announce itself along with information I might be interested in (hours, movie times, etc) and then my phone can do what I want with the information. Though I suppose it could easily be done with geolocation if it worked indoors.

  • Like the MsShotgun?
  • So the idea is that Microsoft will know your location at all times? And i'm sure they won't sell that information to interested 3rd parties. It'll turn the phone into a bratty little brother/sister who reports everything you do to home base.
  • If the phone is in your pocket (or purse) how can the phone determine if the lights have gone down? Does is see through cloth and leather?

    What if microsofts location information turns out to be as accurate as Apple Maps? Will phones randomly go silent?

  • Err, how would it detect that the lights have gone down if it's in your pocket?

  • Being "That Girl" was OK for Marlo Thomas.
  • The phone sounds that disturb me are not coming from the phone. It is the people USING the phone.
    And most of the time this is not even the sound that disturb me.
    It is people who I am trying to have a conversation with, but they pick up their phone every 30 seconds and answer some message.
    Then when you wait till they are finished, they say: pleas go on, I am listening. In reality they answer each question with 'huh?'.
    Perhaps next time I should take out my phone, keep on talking and texting them that they are

  • Do they mean, when the person puts the phone away in his or her pocket? I'm not sure exactly how light sensing is a good method of telling anything about the location of a phone, even when combined with GPS data...

  • Can this device also detect when any of my friends are around and hide the microsoft/windows logo and show an Android one instead?

  • That's going to be one heck of a database. Every little bistro, conference hall, concert hall, tavern with live music, etc.

    Why not some short range (Bluetooth?) protocol on a device that broadcasts a "please use quiet mode" signal?

  • that this is not an invention, but an idea, or worse, a combination of several simple ideas. It's like a patent for a pianodeskbed, something that you can sleep in while playing the piano, sitting on a desk. Wow, are we clever at Microsoft. Are we quick at Apple?

    Every time I leave home my phone reminds me to take it with me, based on location. Wait, no, sorry... I get back on that one.

  • What Microsoft is saying is plausible, it might even be patentable, but it won't fly because it is unconstitutional.

    It unfairly and unilaterally impedes the first amendment rights of the callers who have the right to express their opinion that the callee would benefit by the new and exciting services the caller has to offer. Corporations are people my friend. Robot autodialers are agents of the corporate-people who are assigned the right from the corporate people.

  • Last year they applied for patents on interpreting users striking their devices. Now, they want to make devices less annoying.

    Are they learning from their previous mobile efforts?

    Hey Bob, users find our phones annoying and want to hit them. Can we do something with that?

  • Seriously, the worst are idiots talking into neck-cradled mobile and pissing into the urinal. I feel sorry for the person on the other end of the conversation.
  • This better trun off when you call 911 as the last thing you want to for the sound to be to low when you call 911.

  • Here in Australia, all the movie theaters (the ones I have been to at least) have signs in the lobby that say "turn off your phone during the show" and they have signage on-screen during the ads that says "turn off your phone during the show". I have never experienced people being annoying with their phones.

    What about the US is different and why cant theaters just tell people to turn off their phone (make it a condition of entry and eject people being annoying). If you absolutely have to be contactable, you

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Because in the US rudeness varies a lot as do our other personality attributes. There are some ethnic/cultural attributes which vary interestingly. For example, asian people seem to have the most positive of stereotypes where they are nearly always concerned about whether or not they are in someone else's way. They never want to be rude. Black people tend to be the opposite as they never seem to care when they are in the way of anyone else, talking TO the movies and more. White and hispanic people seem

  • I have long wanted my TomTom to sense the sound level of what is going on around it and to detect if someone in the car is talking. If it detects talking, it will merely beep and put text on the display when it has something to say.

    I can't tell you how many times that thing interrupts conversation in the car with some speech I would rather not hear at that exact moment. A beep with text and maybe a "say it anyway" button would be great.

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