MSNBC.com just published a story about a cell phone that stopped a performance of Mahler’s Ninth symphony last night at the New York Philharmonic. The offending phone was playing a marimba ring tone easily heard during the quiet section near the end of the long piece. It rang over, and over, and over again. Most of the audience seemed to know that Mahler had not included a marimba in the symphonic arrangement of his Ninth Symphony.
Eventually, Maestro Alan Gilbert stopped the performance, bringing gasps from the audience. Then he turned to the section of the audience, and asked that the ringing phone be shut off.
Then he waited.
And waited some more while the ringing continued in the now-silenced hall.
No one moved. Apparently for minutes. Finally, after several audience members pointed to the person who seemed to be the source of the interruption, the suspect slowly slipped his hand into his jacket pocket and the noise stopped. Maestro Gilbert then asked the stone-faced attendee if the phone was truly off. The man slowly nodded.
The audience became unruly. Christie Connolley writing for http://www.Operagasm.com quotes the audience members yelling out “Thousand-dollar fine!,” “Kick him out!,” and “Get out!” If Alice’s Red Queen had been in attendance, I assume the call would go out for the man’s head.
The Philharmonic management has politely declined to identify the offender, but his identity isn’t really relevant for this post in a design blog. The behavior of his phone is.
With all the talk of ever-more-powerful phones with multicore processors, multi-touch screens, multimedia playback, and longer battery life, we’ve still got a bunch of really stupid phones on our hands. Even Apple’s Siri isn’t smart enough to sense that she’s attending a movie or a concert and that it might be best to be silent. And it’s not like Siri doesn’t know where she is all the time, is it? She’s got built-in GPS and a mapping app at hand. (Yes, I know the GPS isn’t on all the time and that it won’t work inside of a building.)
The point of this blog post is that there’s still a lot of latent intelligence we can put into products to make them behave in civil society. Cell phones are perhaps the most intrusive but are not the only personal electronic products that need to learn about indoor versus outdoor voices.
It’s up to us as the developers of these products to better educate them.