Psychologist Jibo He crashed into a vehicle while he was driving and trying to send an important text message via his smartphone. Fortunately, nobody was killed because He was in his advanced driving simulator at Wichita State University (WSU) studying how texting influences driving performance.
He is not encouraging texting while driving, which caused from 281,000 to 786,000 crashes in 2012, according to a United States National Safety Council estimate. He is researching how texting with Google Glass, a wearable, hands-free smart device operated by voice commands, impacts driving performance compared to head-down, fully manual texting on a smartphone.
“Texting while driving is risky but common,” says He, an assistant professor at WSU. “There is abundant evidence demonstrating that texting while driving impairs driving performance.”
He was the first to study the effects of Google Glass on driving. His research program receives funds from the Midwest Transportation Center at Iowa State University,
He and his research team found that texting with Google Glass, which has a tiny display screen and a camera attached to a glasses-like frame, still impedes driving performance, although not as much as texting with a smartphone. “The results did not surprise me very much,” says He. “The benefits of a head-mounted display and voice recognition were expected based on studies in the aviation, health, and driving domains.”
He and fellow WSU psychologist Barbara Chaparro have applied for a patent for an attachment they created to increase the visual field of Google Glass’s display. Called Google Lens, the small attachment increases Google Glass’s view 58 percent horizontally and 34 percent vertically, making it more suitable for certain tasks including surgery.
“One company in California and one in New York are consulting us for licensing Google Lens,” He says.
He also is studying how wearable devices could detect driver fatigue by detecting how often tired drivers blink their eyes.
The Midwest Transportation Center at Iowa State’s Institute for Transportation is one of 10 regional University Transportation Centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology.