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The Well-Mannered Cell Phone

September 1, 2001

You’re engrossed in a movie at the Cineplex when your cell phone starts vibrating. Do you take the call-and irritate fellow filmgoers? Les Nelson at the FX Palo Alto Laboratory (the research lab of Fuji-Xerox) has developed a less intrusive solution: Quiet Calls, a device that, at the push of a button, puts through inconvenient calls but first plays a prerecorded voice message, such as, “I can’t talk now, but I can listen-go ahead.” Quiet Calls could eventually be built into cell phones; the prototype is an attachment that plugs into the phone’s voice input jack and that provides a three-button keypad to execute up to nine responses (photo). Why not just use text messaging? Says Nelson, “Sometimes you need voice interaction.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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