The funeral for your spouse’s cousin’s great aunt by marriage is running long and suddenly your cell phone starts to vibrate in your pocket. You discreetly peek at your caller ID – it’s an important call from your partner. You need to know immediately what he’s going to say. Do you whisper into a cell phone during the “ashes to ashes” sermon? Do you nonchalantly step away from the procession? No, you slip the tiny audio plug into your ear and hit your Quiet Calls button. When you do, an outgoing greeting tells your partner, “Hi, I’m on my cell phone. I can listen but not talk aloud right now. Please go ahead.”
As your partner rattles off critical details, you hit a button to say, “Good, I’m still listening.” The exchange concludes when you hit “Thanks and bye.” No one at the funeral has shot you a dirty look – you’ve interacted among the living without getting caught. Other options are to hold a caller on the line while you try to slip away to a suitable place for a conversation, or to politely defer all but the most urgent calls, shifting a caller into voice after receiving the live connection.
That’s the dream of Lester Nelson of the FX Palo Alto Laboratory run by Fuji-Xerox. It’s essentially a third way between voice mail and text messaging.