It was recently reported that Apple might be planning to develop software that could prevent iPhone users from filming gigs and live events on their smartphones. According to patent plans filed by the company in late 2009, infrared sensors close to the stage at gig venues could disable the iPhone’s record function, or in some cases, apply a watermark to the captured photos and video. (So presumably your grainy gig footage would be obscured behind a matrix of tiny Apple logos – or Steve Jobs’ laughing face.)
In fairness, I guess infrared technology is the easiest way to prevent gig-goers from capturing concert footage on their phones. Imagine the terrible publicity if Apple physically policed all live venues, with reports of iPhone-wielding Daniel O’Donnell fans being kettled and beaten by ‘anti-capture squads’ during the crooner’s performance of Tipperary Girl. It’d be a PR nightmare.
According to The Sun, “the new technology is seen as an attempt to protect the interests of event organisers and broadcasters who have exclusive rights to concerts. The companies are often left frustrated when videos of shows appear online via websites such as YouTube which let users watch them for free.”
I find it genuinely hard to believe that broadcasters waste any time worrying about how their multi-million pound event coverage will fare against a few minutes of live performance footage captured on a gig-goers’ smartphone, which usually looks like someone’s tried to film the John Lewis ‘home lighting’ department through the bottom of a sick-filled vase (with audio quality worthy of the iPhonautograph).
We’re not talking about stunning, high quality concert footage here; it’s just ordinary people recording live experiences for posterity (using the video-enabled phones they were slickly encouraged to purchase or upgrade to). And given that such footage is often spread around via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s the fans themselves – armed with their blurry snippets of video – who play a crucial role in promoting and supporting up-and-coming bands and small gig venues. Why kill that?
Typically, it’s been speculated that this technological concept may strengthen Apple’s hand when it comes to negotiating with record labels to sell content through its iTunes store. So with mountains of money potentially at stake, I fully expect to see this technology rolled out in the very near future. Perhaps around the same time that Apple strikes a deal to sell us our own emotions, so that we’ll be unable to complain about the restrictions placed on our iPhones’ record function until we’ve downloaded ‘anger’ from the App Store for £5.99 and installed it in our brains.
If Apple wants to make our iPhones work against us, they should at least invent features and gadgets that have the potential to enhance some of our lives.
For instance, through the use of motion sensors, GPS and audio monitoring equipment, there could be an iPhone function that incapacitates aggressive drivers. Imagine stopping at some traffic lights and looking in your rear-view mirror at the Audi driver behind you (looking like Agent Smith from The Matrix, like they all tend to do) who’s been dangerously tailgating you for miles. As his impatience reaches an abusive crescendo, wouldn’t it be an absolute delight to see the agonised expression on his face at the precise moment a metallic barb (embossed with the Apple logo) shoots from his iPhone, rips through the lining of his trouser pocket, and embeds itself deep in his scrotum.
“Thank you, Apple!” I would shout gratefully. (Only later would I rue the fact that the Audi driver’s phone hadn’t been kept in a breast pocket, close to his heart.)
Or what about an iPhone function that uses facial recognition software to scan for high concentrations of ‘celebrity’ nonentities in the VIP lounges of some of London’s premier nightspots. When the iPhone establishes that there’s a significant gathering of talentless cockends in one location, it could trigger a limited release of nerve gas, while simultaneously establishing a FaceTime connection with the editorial desk of Heat magazine. Screengrabbed images of Kerry Katona and the cast of The Only Way is Essex – convulsing and drooling heavily into their champagne flutes – could then fill approximately ten pages of the next issue (and all for free!).
You see? There’s so much more Apple could do with the iPhone instead of cracking down on millions of music fans worldwide.
But there is an upside to this technology, apparently. Because the same infrared jiggery-pokery that would prevent you capturing concert footage on your iPhone could also be used to enhance your experience of places like museums and art galleries. In a museum, for example, a transmitter could be located adjacent to an exhibit which would turn your iPhone into an ‘Auto Tour Guide’. Wandering around the museum – intermittently raising your iPhone to each exhibit, like a modern day salute to the past – it would then helpfully provide you with further information about the artefacts on display.
Of course, it’s to be hoped that this infrared iPhone technology doesn’t make it out onto the streets and ultimately become a mishmash of the two intended functions. What if you pulled out your iPhone to film some police brutality during a mass demonstration, only for the record function to disable at the crucial moment? Or even worse: as you shakily raise your iPhone towards the snarling officer looming over you, it randomly switches to ‘Auto Tour Guide’ mode and begins to furnish you with extensive information (including a bonus audio commentary) about the ASP 16-inch telescopic baton that’s just fractured your skull.
Still, that kind of nightmare is a long way in the future (and it’s largely stuff I’ve just made up anyway). And like James Holland, editor of technology site electricpig.co.uk, says: “A patent is just an expression of an idea, and no guarantee Apple’s actually building it into the iPhone.”
Very true. But that said, I think Apple should just stick to creating the phones – we’ll decide how to use them.