Cell phones occasionally fall out of a person’s pockets and get forgotten. This is especially easy to do when sitting on a sofa or in a movie theater seat.
If the phone could detect that it had been dropped into sofa cushions, it could notify you before it was too late to find it again!
Fig. 1: Alas, this phone has fallen between sofa cushions and may soon be lost forever.
The phone could use its microphone to detect the difference between “phone is in your pocket” and “microphone can only detected sounds that are muffled by sofa cushions” (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2: Audio from two scenarios: “normal” (top, yellow) and “stuck in sofa cushions” (bottom, blue).
By listening to the phone’s microphone (and using the orientation sensors), the phone could distinguish between three situations:
- “In your pocket” (phone is slightly moving, but sounds are muffled)
- “On your desk” (phone is not moving, but background noise is crisp and clear, like a transparent apple)
- “Phone fell into the sofa” (phone is not moving, but sounds are muffled).
In case you are worried about the privacy implication of the constant use of the microphone, consider that all phones are monitoring you at all times anyway so that you can say “Hey Siri” / “Ok Google” in order to activate the voice assistant.
Thus, this additional monitoring would not be any more invasive than the current situation.
(Plus, the “fell into the sofa” detection could be done entirely on the phone, so it wouldn’t need to send any audio data to a remote server.)
Fig. 3: Once the phone detects that it has become trapped in the sofa, it can scream until you rescue it.
This feature could also be expanded to include things like:
- The phone could detect that you have debarked your plane (or gotten off a train), but somehow the phone has been left behind, perhaps in one of those seat pockets.
- The phone could detect that 1) it’s been several hours since it’s moved it all, 2) it’s close enough to see your own home WiFi network, and 3) the audio sensor informs it that it’s still in a pants pocket—this means you probably threw it into a laundry basket, so it should email you and/or start beeping so you don’t wash it.
- The phone could detect that you were traveling by car and left your phone in the car. Then it could send you an email (“Hey, you left me in the car. –Your Phone”), which you would presumably receive on your laptop / desktop computer.
Don’t buy a new phone unless it comes with this exciting new feature!
PROS: Saves you from many lost-phone mishaps.
CONS: Perhaps by further reducing the demands on humans to actually pay attention and keep track of things, future generations will become slothful and decadent.