New Mobile Applications
Five stunning, new integrated mobile phone applications are set to revolutionise the way we communicate globally, while adding a whole new meaning to the word "personal" (subject to operator approval).
The applications have been devised and developed by the world renowned Pevensey Bay Institute for Telecommunications Research in East Sussex, England, helped by prominent Professor Heinz Siebenundfünfzig of the nearby Polegate Institute for Population Studies (annexe), near Eastbourne.
The Institute’s Director, Professor Marc O’Nee, revealed that researchers were determined to solve some of modern life’s most frustrating problems and, in so doing, found that these were, in fact, closely interrelated.
Following months of research in which several of the scientists lived with ordinary members of the public and observed the daily challenges they faced, a remarkably consistent and integrated set of user needs was established.
The new applications were then developed by separate teams working under the direction of the Institute’s head of Product Realisation, the Italian Dr. Salvatore Centotredici, expertly assisted by his American counterpart, originally from Naples, Professor Niccolò Novecentoundici.
Following an invitation by Dr. O’Nee, I spent a day at the Institute seeing how the applications worked individually and when integrated. The remote and somewhat forbidding establishment stands in its own grounds, surrounded by high walls covered in barbed wire. Access is gained only after top level security clearance and the signature of a personal injury disclaimer (well, this is experimental).
I was escorted through the building by two monosyllabic, burly young men in white coats, whom I took to be postgraduate students. The huge product testing area, several hectares in size, is itself constantly observed by what appeared to be other scientists in white coats.
The applications were demonstrated to me individually in the following order.
1. "The Pherophone"
Dr. Centotredici explained, "Modern life is so hectic and people often have to move to town for work. As a result romantic attachments can be difficult to form, whatever one’s inclinations. Our team wondered how it could help Cupid’s arrows on their way."
Based on the function of pheromones, the Pherophone detects when another person emits an airborne chemical message, signalling sexual attraction to the user’s mobile handset.
Just as with music or pictures, smells can be analysed, encoded and stored digitally. In this case, the owner’s own pheromone signature, or smell, is initially stored digitally on his or her handset.
Using a discrete attachment that looks strikingly like a pair of tiny nostrils attached to the side of the phone, the hardware and software can detect whether the person standing nearest the phone will be romantically compatible with the owner.
Various grades of attraction can be depicted using text or pictures. For example, the strongest favourable match results in the display on screen of pictures of trains going through tunnels and of rockets exploding.
Conversely the detection of an incompatible stranger causes a picture to be displayed of a divorce hearing and an estimate indicating the eventual financial cost to the user of such a relationship. This can be adjusted using global positioning satellite technology to local currency.
Sound alerts are under review as they can cause problems. For example, loud ring tones playing Verdi’s "La donna è mobile" (favourable) or Elton John’s "The bitch is back" (unfavourable) have met with "user resistance" after several violent incidents.
The Pherophone, in fact, does not evaluate physical appearance, only smell, so it has to be used with judgement. A more worrying aspect is that, unlike people, the current version does not distinguish between human and animal smells - a fact only discovered during a recent field trip to Wales by one of the single male researchers.
However, the Pherophone does have other uses. It is able, for example, to provide busy executives with a foolproof method of detecting one’s own bad breath before that vital meeting.
The user just breathes into the tiny plastic nostrils on the side of the device and appropriate images indicating the level of bad breath are displayed. These images range from a dead donkey, indicating terminal halitosis, to a picture of a smiling patient giving a thumbs-up sign after supposedly having received mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from the owner of the phone.
"The Pherophone spells the end for all dating agencies, speed-dating functions, personal advertisements in newspapers and associated web sites", claimed the Doctor. Possibly.
However, it could also prevent the misinterpretation of other subtle hints and signals I have experienced, as when a lady responds to amorous advances with a firm slap across the face, or with an expression not unlike that shown when sucking a fresh lemon.
2. "The Fearophone"
This application resulted from a misunderstanding on the telephone between the Italian team developing the Pherophone and the Irish Director of the Institute, Dr. Marc O’Nee.
The Director thought the application was intended to detect the level of fear caused to the owner by the nearest stranger. He thought it such a wonderful idea that he tasked a separate development team to work independently to devise a solution by another route should the Italian team have been late (however unlikely that may have been). Thus by accident an entirely new device was created.
Again the phone initially stores data about the owner’s own level of fierceness, physical strength and combativeness. These are given identities, ranging from "Day-old kitten and the runt of the litter at that" to "Genghis Khan".
The device is then aimed at a nearby stranger to check the level of threat posed and then relevant pictures and text are displayed.
Pointed at various researchers, the device strangely indicated Edvard Munch’s "The Scream". Reassuringly an image of Bambi also appeared and a video of the shower scene in Hitchcock’s "Psycho", accompanied by text reading "Run for the hills now and don’t look back!". The researchers explained this away, somewhat uncomfortably I felt, by saying that testing was "ongoing" and that calibration of the device was not perfect.
At times, apparently due to software conflicts, confusing images of a train travelling through a shower or Bambi standing in a divorce court were displayed, but these were being resolved.
If you think that mobile phone users often miss important events by constantly staring at their phones as if sleep-walking, bear that in mind with this device as there is a slight delay between the detection of the level of danger posed and its depiction on screen. Hence, when threatened with an axe by one of the researchers, all in the spirit of experiment, I was assured, I had to shout, "Hang on, the picture’s just appearing. Ah yes! ‘Psycho-killer’ Excellent! It works", just as the axe was falling.
The Fearophone’s functionality may be disabled in large companies, as it would quickly identify and resolve all issues of office politics, rendering office life terminally dull and dispensing with the average 37.44% of all work time currently occupied by inter-departmental rivalry.
The next two applications depend on the use of Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) tags embedded in everyday objects.
3. "The Styleophone"
Not to be confused with the late 70s "musical" instrument for children, the "Stylophone".
Researchers noted that lateness for work and missing trains could be reduced for both men and women by 44.74% precisely (a strange, but true, coincidence) by being able quickly to find socks that match and, by extension, entire outfits that look good, especially on those dark winter mornings.
Other benefits would accrue, such as securing that great new job through improved personal appearance, or simply not being laughed at by unkind strangers for an unfortunate combination of colours and textures. (For some reason this last seemed particularly important to the research teams.)
Users could also more readily preserve the will to live by never again having to watch television programmes presented by two vacuous snobs giving "advice" on what not to wear to yet more vapid and unfortunate members of the public.
With this application, pictures of the owner’s face and body, in addition to details of gender, age and weight, are stored in the phone, while RFID tags are stitched in to all the owner’s clothes. As all clothes will shortly carry RFID tags at the point of manufacture to assist stock tracking this will not be an issue in the future.
Several "looks" or preferred appearances are available, from "Work: male, formal", through "Mutton dressed as lamb" (also known north of Watford as "She’s nowt better than she should be"), to "Trailer trash". It is also possible to set alternative years in the past.
Thus, one can select, "American male, 1968, full Woodstock", or "The Singing Nun, 1965", both favoured at fancy dress parties, or for people about to become rock stars or for those starting a vocation.
The system then uses the RFID tags in the clothes to alert the user when an appropriate garment is located in the owner’s wardrobe (including wigs). This uses proprietary "greentooth" technology developed by Professor Giuseppe Aldenteverdi.
A GPS facility establishes country settings for national dress automatically and suggests closest possible alternatives. While options are limited in certain parts of the world by the range of clothes from which to choose, the application certainly detected the unfortunate clash between my green gabardine left sock and my Campbell tartan right sock - I had had an early start.
4. "The Sod-uphone"
This application addresses a wide range of situations that make modern life stressful when the worst possible thing happens at the worst possible time, also known as "Sod’s Law" (U.S. "Murphy’s Law" and the related U.S device, the "Murph-uphone").
This application was originally devised by researchers to act in conjunction with pieces of toast to prevent them falling buttered side down, which is a cause of immense irritation and waste of time for people.
In this case, RFID tags were placed in the bread before toasting. After toasting and buttering, the slices of bread were knocked off the laboratory’s work surfaces as nonchalantly and accidentally as possible to simulate conditions they had witnessed in the field.
In mid-flight a "Sod-u" button on the phone is pressed (next to the mute button) and by activating the RFID tag embedded in the toast through a powerful burst of radioactive energy (plutonium-based), the toast always lands buttered side up. Fantastic!
Admittedly the RFID tags are a bit crunchy when eaten and it is best to set the toaster down a notch or two, as the plutonium quickly adds a shade of darkness when the "Sod-u" button is pressed, but otherwise this worked really well, though I did feel somewhat sunburned after a few tests.
The Sod-u application also detects when the owner of the phone is in the bath and automatically invokes call divert to voice mail, initiating the recorded message with, "Sod-u. User in bath. Please call back later".
Similarly, when the phone’s owner is at the beginning of a romantic evening with a highly compatible partner (as established by the Pherophone) the "Sod-u" button can be used to prevent a drink spilling on to a clean, white shirt by immediately irradiating the drink in mid-fall from the glass.
This does result in the owner wearing a grey shirt, but it definitely cuts cleaning bills and any possible awkwardness is avoided (as long as the romantic couple do not want children).
I certainly did not feel hungry after a few slices of irradiated toast, but my (now-grey) shirt was detected as "incompatible with rest of outfit" by the Styleophone. More on integration later.
5. "The Boppia"
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all men over the age of thirty-five become invisible as potential partners to younger women, unless the men are in possession of a good fortune or vast amounts of power, but preferably both.
Unfortunately, however, this does not prevent the more mature among us from occasionally overindulging in alcohol at weddings and behaving inappropriately as a result, as this reporter is all too aware.
Hence "The Boppia" is designed to avoid the embarrassment caused by uncles to nephews and nieces at weddings when the older members of the party throw themselves around the floor like hand puppets attached to bungee jumping ropes, under the illusion that they are "cool" or "sexy".
The device is somewhat stringent in operation. Beginning with 50 volts, it supplies electric shocks of steadily increasing intensity to the owner when a certain level of inebriation is detected by the tiny pair of nostrils mentioned in "The Pherophone" application above.
This works in conjunction with the Boppia’s "Prat-o-meter" device (patent pending) that measures the level of uncoordinated and joint-threatening lateral movement made by the owner, while leering inappropriately at much younger female relatives and friends.
It was no hardship for this reporter to test the Boppia, as the consumption of some alcohol was welcome during such an intensive day. It is not a mark of pride for me to say that I reached 550 volts before being forcibly restrained by the postgraduate students who had originally escorted me to the laboratories.
Possible retail opportunities include wedding planners, company Christmas parties and football clubs.
This has proved to be the most challenging task for researchers. While the applications work well individually, it has proved troublesome to ensure safe and predictable integration and, of course, we should never blame the operating system.
It must be admitted that when ten handsets loaded with all five applications were tested simultaneously, the following sights were observed:
As I left the Institute and the researchers returned to their very comfortable rooms, where the walls, by the way, are covered in thick and luxuriously soft fabric, I did feel somewhat disappointed about the level of integration achieved by the new applications.
However, at the very least the phone devices now contain all of the owner’s physical, temperamental and emotional details. Progress indeed!
Testing is ongoing.
More from Alex MacCaskill at http://www.indefinitearticles.co.uk
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