We've all seen entertaining videos of pedestrians, distracted by their smartphones, walking straight into telephone poles and light posts. You may have even witnessed this in person or, embarrassingly, done it yourself. The obvious solution is to put your smartphone away and live in the moment, but we know that is an unrealistic request. Minwook Paeng, an industrial design student at London's Royal College of Art and Imperial College, was apparently in agreement when he designed this strange robotic Third Eye that helps people walk down the street without running poles while staring at their phones.
Paeng designed and built the Third Eye to fulfill the requirements for his Innovation Design Engineering degree. This is a largely satirical project, which Paeng makes obvious by referring to distracted pedestrians as "phono sapiens." But good satire is always a reflection of reality, slightly distorted to bring focus to the absurdities of human culture. In this case, smartphone distractions are a real problem. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million car crashes each year. Despite being aware of the danger, many people refuse to change their habits. Paeng's Third Eye is a technological solution that imagines a world where people will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid putting down their phones.
The Third Eye straps onto the user's forehead, like a camping headlamp. It has a clear plastic housing that resembles an eyeball covered with eyelids. Those eyelids are functional and only open up when the wearer is looking down (presumably at their phone). An Arduino board uses a gyroscope sensor to detect when the device is pointing down, and opens the eyelids with a servo motor when it does. The "pupil" of the eye is an ultrasonic distance sensor. If it sees something nearby, like a city bus, the Arduino sounds a loud buzzer to notify the user. While wearing the Third Eye, users can walk down the street in total confidence without ever having to look away from their smartphones.