Is that the look of the future? Will we soon be walking the streets with a bulbous high-tech “eye” on our forehead?
Probably not, but South Korean industrial designer Paeng Min-wook designed such a device anyway, mainly in hopes of drawing attention to the distracted walking problem.
As the term suggests, distracted walking refers to the fact that we don’t focus on the path ahead while walking on the street. The main distraction these days is of course the smartphone as most people can’t resist staring at their phone when they really should be on the lookout for obstacles, which can range from trash cans and benches to people and vehicles.
Min-wook developed the so-called Third Eye as part of his Phono Sapiens project. The device attaches to your head and uses sensors to detect obstacles as you stroll down the sidewalk, lost in your phone. If it detects something about two meters away, a warning will appear on your phone, preventing a catastrophic outcome.
“It’s rare these days for people to take to the streets without a smartphone – that’s why I designed The Third Eye,” said Min-wook, a post graduate in innovation design engineering at SCMP’s Royal College of Art and Imperial College College. “The device can help you walk comfortably while looking at your smartphone.”
During an exercise where Min-wook was testing The Third Eye on the streets of Seoul, some passers-by said it made him look like an alien, while others admitted that they might actually need the device for their own safety.
The 28-year-old industrial designer said his goal is not to commercialize The Third Eye, but rather to use the device to raise awareness of the distracted walking problem.
“Instead of finding the solution, I’m trying to point out and criticize what we’re doing with our smartphones,” said Min-wook, adding, “I hope this will stimulate the future of our society and reflect the absurdity within ourselves can. “
Over the years there have been many stories of people stumbling into canals, leaving piers, and falling into manholes while using their phones.
Honolulu, Hawaii, considered the matter so important that it passed law banning the use of smartphones on zebra crossings. Other places have addressed the problem in their own way, for example with flashing lights on sidewalks to warn pedestrians before entering the street, or by introducing so-called “SMS lanes”.
Apparently, Google wanted to tackle the problem and began introducing a “heads up” feature for Android earlier this year, which encourages distracted walkers to be aware of their surroundings.