Apple has filed a patent application for a new iPhone functionality that would allow users to see voice as text and to hear text as voice.
What could it be used for? There are obvious benefits for people with hearing impairments, but if you work or play in noisy environments then it is potentially good for you too. If all works as it is supposed to, the phone will automatically display speech as text when ambient noise is too loud – hopefully eliminating (or at least reducing) those annoying situations where people try to shout their way past the background noise.
It goes the other way too. Say that you are in a library, a meeting or somewhere that it is not appropriate to be seen talking on a phone – you type in text and the other person can hear it as voice. This does tend to beg the question, “Why couldn’t I just read it?”
Finally, there is a two-way text option that would allow users to both send each other text by talking into the phone – text messaging where both of you are talking. It seems less useful, but it might be nice for those times that you don’t actually want to talk to the person on the other end of the phone or laboriously type out an e-mail on the virtual keyboard.
There is no word on when or if this technology will see the light of day. Apple files a lot patents, but it seems like it is something that would not be too difficult to implement. Who knows, it could find its way into the next iPhone.