Light and sound sensitive phones that automatically adjust users’ settings, depending on the environment, could be the next innovation from Microsoft.

The Washington-based computer software company has submitted an ‘Inconspicuous mode for mobile devices’ patent to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), detailing the new idea.

The concept involves sensors within a mobile phone that can detect a wide variety of occasions and events and can subsequently react to these by changing the phones display, lighting and volume, to fit in with surroundings.

Examples of such environmental conditions are places with ambient sound and light levels, such as in a movie theatre or when in bed. The surroundings are then picked up by the phone’s light sensor and microphone.

The inconspicuous mode could also present a less obtrusive or conspicuous reduced set of information on the home screen, in comparison to details shown in the normal mode of operation.

The device could be configured by default or user specification, depending on the situation.

Although the patent was filed back in July 2011, the application has only just been published by the USPTO.

The patent application argued: “One problem with the ubiquity of mobile devices in so many different environments is that their use is not appropriate in all settings. As one common example, in a theatre the sound from a mobile communication device and the light from its display can be distracting to other theatre patrons.”

Customized Displays

If given the go-ahead, the new inconspicuous mode may allow the user to control other aspects of the feature, such as the precise brightness level of the display when in the inconspicuous mode.

The user interface could also provide a list or menu from which the user can select or unselect specific items that are to be displayed while in the mode.

For example, the user may specify that only the time or day should be displayed in inconspicuous mode and that the brightness should be reduced by 60 per cent.

In Sync

The phone’s calendar or scheduling application may also be embodied into the mode.

“If the user enters into the device’s calendar that he or she will be attending the theatre on Tuesday at 7pm or will be attending a dinner on Thursday at 8pm, the inconspicuous mode component may access this data and perform a keyword search to determine those days and times when it should enter the inconspicuous mode,” the application stated.

The user could swipe part of the screen or shake the phone in order to return to normal mode, or the device could return to the original mode when the environmental condition which caused it to enter the inconspicuous mode is no longer present.

Is this feature deemed superfluous or something that would appeals to most users?


[Image via wikipedia]