3 neat smartphone technologies (and why they won’t work)

Walking into somebody is a forgivable stumble. Walking into a sign post is a humorous folly. Walking into moving traffic is just plain deadly.

But all three of these scenarios are possible – and occurring. What’s the cause behind such careless acts? Mobile phones, of course.

Texting, chatting, and using apps while speed-walking down a city sidewalk may not be so dangerous as to require a stuntman, but its true danger is underestimated, according to various technology companies (and even city councils) pushing for safety. The main problem is that everyone thinks, “It won’t happen to me!” – and when it does, it’s too late.

So what kind of technologies are sprouting that aim to prevent unfocused phone addicts from colliding with inanimate – and animate – obstacles?

See-through screens. This technology involves rendering smartphone screens with a high level of transparency, so that avid texters can see where their feet are landing, or about to land, without disengaging from the phone-related act (because you know they won’t).

Talking texts. This technology includes an earpiece that reads our your texts and identifies things such an incoming callers vocally, so you don’t need to stare at your screen as often or for as long.

Foresight video. This technology taps into your smartphone’s camera, and then displays a box somewhere on your screen, which evidently shows you what’s up ahead without actually looking ahead.

While these technologies and others work toward reduced collisions and increased safety, they can’t do it all: brains focused on a text, call, or app, aren’t going to be able to engage sufficiently on other things – such as avoiding the sign post, or watching traffic closely. Users of mobile devices must take responsibility for their safety. They can’t rely on apps or transparent screens to do protect them from harm.

We’re awful good at focusing on one thing. Now let’s just focus on the right thing.