Everyone’s annoyed by the idiotic phone calls of others, whose irrelevance is only exceeded their volume, but German scientists have decided to do something about it. Professor Tanja Schultz of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has designed a system that does more than read your lips – it reads your whole face.
Electromyography reads the electrical signals sent to facial muscles when you move them, like when you’re talking. By translating this movement into the matching text, users can send silent speech through their phone without ever making a noise. It’ll be replayed in an artificial voice at the other end.
It sounds great, but to say this approach has a few problems is like saying a car made of darts might have problems cornering. For one, you completely lose any intonations or emotion, and it’s extremely unlikely that the sort of shouter who needs this system will be prepared to make that sacrifice for the sake of others. Everyone needs to know exactly HOW annoyed they were, oh my god, by that stupid cop when they were hardly speeding at all! There’s also the fact that the electromyographic rig needs to tape nine electrodes to your face to work – which Professor Schultz admits isn’t ready for mass market use, but says could be improved for future phone use.
How? Because unless they’re planning to have Apple brand an iFaceWeb there’s no way people will make themselves look that stupid. And there’s no way this’ll work without sticking suckers to your face: any technology which could do away with that – advanced visual scanning and lip-reading (a la HAL9000), forcefield reading of distant motion, reading your mind – would never be used for it because it’d be too busy revolutionizing the entire world.
But there is one way we can silence the most annoyingly audible users right now. Instead of sensitive sticky pads, use the old-style electrodes: great big needles you jam into your face. Use them to poke great big holes and top them with huge metal balls, sell them from Hot Topic, and watch as teenagers who turn their skulls into scrap-metal storage locations finally put them to good, quiet, use.
And if someone uses their phone in the cinema? They get one whether they want it or not and everyone else in the theatre gets a turn hammering in the spikes.