If you have been to a concert in recent years, chances are you likely noticed the abundance of people capturing the event on their smartphones. It has become a common practice for fans who want to enjoy their favorite artists later on to record some or all of their performances, yet both artists and audience members have found this trend annoying.
Apple is seeking to address the issue, but not by encouraging iPhone users to keep their devices in their pockets; instead, the company has been working on technology to prevent cameras from being useable under certain circumstances.
The tech giant was granted a patent for a new device that, through infrared signals, can block people from using their iPhone's camera to take photographs or video. If the camera app is opened, the phone's screen, according to one of the patent's drawings, would feature the text "RECORDING DISABLED."
This walks a fine line between addressing consumer wants and limiting speech. From a concert attendee's perspective, cellphone use at concerts can be irritating. Rather than enjoying the performance, people are often distracted by bright phone screens and blocked views, thanks to self-absorbed smartphone users.
One can wonder if the problem warrants such a dramatic interference in individual rights. Clearly, property owners should not be legally barred from using such technology in private venues if the technology exists and they so choose. Yet Apple's decision to develop a product that essentially tells people when it is and isn't acceptable to use their iPhones seems to go against the ideals of free speech. And while concert bootlegging still exists in the digital age, it's hard to imagine people's shaky personal footage is really a significant financial threat to the music industry.
It's possible that customers will be displeased by Apple's decision to move forward with this product. But as with so many technologies, there are more potential uses for it than initially meet the eye: According to the patent application, it could even be used to send information on an exhibit to people who open their iPhone cameras inside the museum. Some attractions already use QR barcodes for a similar purpose, but Apple's product looks poised to make the process of delivering information to people even easier.