Texting While Walking

Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application entitled ‘Transparent Texting’ that Apple filed in late 2012. In it, the company proposes to replace the background image of messaging applications with a live video feed from the device’s camera.

This effect would create the illusion that the device has a transparent display, allowing users to see what lies in front of them while they are texting. The goal of the invention is to make it safer for iPhone (and other mobile device) users to text and perform other functions while walking…

From the Abstract [description] of Apple’s patent (via AppleInsider):

“An electronic communication device’s camera can continuously capture and present video images as a background within a text messaging session currently being displayed by the device. The camera can be a rear-facing camera on the device, so that the video images represent the views that the device’s user would see if the device’s display were transparent. The camera can continuously capture and present the video images as the background in the text messaging session, so that the device’s user continuously can be aware of the environment beyond the device’s display while still focusing on the text messages being communicated.”

And here’s an illustration from the filing showing the feature in action:

transparent text

Now there are a few things worth mention here. For one, this is not at all new technology. There are tons of third-party apps available in the App Store right now that offer up the ability to stream live video from your iPhone’s camera in the background while you type out a message or e-mail.

But the fact that Apple is working on a native implementation of the tech is still notable. Believe it or not, texting while walking causes more [although often far less severe] accidents per year than texting and driving, and the government has asked the company repeatedly to deliver solution.

  • Aaron

    Wow Camtext copy much lol

    • This patend is a copy of an App wich basicly was in the App Store in 2008 or so, I hope the developer will remember it and ask the authoritys to not giving Apple this patend!

  • Spacewalk

    What about battery performance if the camera is on all the time?

    • ConduciveMammal

      Well, unless you were texting non-stop, it wouldn’t be on all the time.

      • Nino

        This is probably 90% of use cases (made up percentage, but trust me, it’s high), so we’d get teenagers ranting ‘omg ios 8 eats all my battery f*king iphone i hate u!!!’ on every social network.

    • Decio Arruda

      I’m sure there’ll be a toggle

  • jacob wolin

    What happened to people looking up and seeing the beauty of the world

    • ap3604

      There’s beauty left in the world?

      • illK†Δ

        There is, you just haven’t found it yet.

      • ap3604

        Might be hard to find with all the greed, corruption, 50% divorce rate, cancer, global warming, overpopulation, lack of well paying jobs, 3rd world children dying of starvation, etc…

        Sometimes I totally understand why people would rather look at their phone than the world around them.

      • Sean Clark

        I’m glad we live in a society so concerned with family and friends. I’ve had plenty of tough times that I only got through with support from my family.

        If my happiness is borne from caring too much about my family then so be it. There’s much shallower things to care about.

      • Kenan

        that was good.

      • Nino

        It’s only bad if you focus on the bad things.

        Also, I don’t get how “a society of people who don’t care about anyone but their family/friends” is bad. If anything, that’s actually GOOD. Bad would be a selfish society that only care about themselves (which, for the most part, is reality).

      • OhSixTJ

        How is it the billionaires fault that people on other countries are starving? Are they buyin up all of their food?

      • CS

        But where do you hear about all of this “corruption”, etc…. Your phone…. I’ve never seen a news headline while staring out at all the stars at night, or overlooking a mountainous area.

      • romeodesigns

        I’ll check google for what beauty remains.

    • Marcus Gomita

      I know right! Look around and participate in the real world instead of being obsessed with your iPhone screen.

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    I’m always amazed at how i walk down the corridors at school texting and i manage to navigate my way around people and they are also texting, somehow no one ever bumps into anyone.

    • Michael Santoro

      Sorta like the brainwashed Dauntless in Divergent. Lol

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        Yeah, I can’t wait to go see the film

    • speedspawn

      Back in our days we had girls to look at instead of phones, good times!

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        Yes it’s true how we live in a very socially connected but socially deprived world.

      • Oscar Nigma

        They can still look at them on Facebook.


  • Benjamin J Schwartz

    Call me crazy, but I can only see this causing more accidents, not preventing them. Most people simply can’t multitask.

    • Laszlo Gaspar

      I agree I don’t see it helping

    • I saw a video of a lady in a mall walk and fall into a fountain because she was sending an sms

    • romeodesigns

      I agree. The joke is, most people hold their phones with back facing downwards, so it’s actually quite pointless for someone to text and see their feet/steps, because they still won’t see what is right in front of them.

  • Alan

    Woah :O call me crazy but isn’t this a tweak ?!

  • wonderboydave

    stalker much?

  • Jonathan

    A tweak on Cydia just came out that does this..

  • Anthony Nguyen

    There’s jailbreak tweak called “CamText” which does this.

    • Melvco

      Yup, Jeff is reviewing it as we speak. =)

  • Merman123

    I hate people I have to constantly be dodging because their too busy on their cell phone that they can’t even look up to see where their going. Come on this idea is ridiculous. Anyone who’s not 15 years old knows what I’m taking about.

    • Carlos Gomes

      … or kids from poor countries.

    • Guest

      I’m a teenager and I know very well what you’re talking about, teenagers are not stupid, it’s just a stereotype!

  • diggitydang

    I don’t see how this will help. It needs to be held at a slight angle to have any value (ie not facing down or you’d see your feet)… If it’s held at say, a 45 degree angle, I think it’s equally challenging to see peripherally around the phone as it is to see as a background of a text message window. Either way, a person’s focus is on that text message block, not what’s around it. That said, I’ve always navigated myself well while texting (not bumping into anyone). I’m not sure how people fall off the end of piers or fall into fountains.

  • grumpyfuzz

    theres been an app in the play store for about 2 years 😛

  • Andrea Malinverni

    There’s a GREAT tweak on Cydia called CamText… It’s Just perfect! I want to thank @sassoty and @Phillip Tennen for this great tweak. PLEASE NOTE THE MESSAGE TO STEVE IN THE DRAWING 😉

  • Snailpo

    Texting while driving lol

  • smtp25

    So riddle me this.. How can they patent something that people have already done. Camtext or similar? Surely they are actually infringing on existing work or is it because they originals never patented it first?

  • trumpet444

    I had a texting app like this on my Droid X a few years ago. I have no idea what it was called though

  • ConduciveMammal

    Apple’s being a bit of a tool on this one. Firstly, how can they patent an invention that they didn’t by any means invent?
    And secondly, people don’t hold their phone horizontally, parallel to the ground whilst texting, if anything, they aim it towards the ground so all the camera would see is a very small portion of the ground. Then comes into play the focus of the person’s eyesight, which will be on the phone, totalling perhaps 2% of their normal vision, there’s very little peripheral vision when the eye is focused on a very small portion of the view, so unless something was immediately in front of them, in the view of the camera; it is useless in all it’s entirety. I’ve used these apps before and they amount to nothing. This, if implemented, will just be another News Stand/Passbook – Worthless.

  • @dongiuj

    Could have sworn this was a jailbreak tweak before the patent.

  • Aaron Hiltebrand

    90 in 1: Appzilla also had this available and that frequently was available for $.99 in the app store. I will be looking forward to those who says its ‘revolutionary’, which will be those who have forgotten the meaning of the word.

  • Apps like Text Vision have been in the appstore since 2010, consider improving on your researching skills before posting…

  • FrankensteinBlack

    Now Apple will use it to bludgeon Samsung and make millions while the talented coders who made the originals get to eat burgers and hotdogs. Slavery, correction Apple Indentured Servitude (i.e. App store Slavery) exists. So sickening, and sad!