Shawn Plyler (Tori Sheets)

The tools and distractions of augmented reality

Augmented reality, with all its appeal and usefulness, also presents some real-world dangers, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Spectrum website.

“Augmented reality can cause you to misjudge the speed of oncoming cars, underestimate your reaction time and unintentionally ignore the hazards of navigating in the real world,” according to the IEEE. “And the worst thing about it: until something bad happens, you won’t know you’re at greater risk of harm.”

There are ways for GPS systems to track the speed of movements outside, and technology designers could employ this feature to prevent notifications when the user is in motion. There are also camera systems that could be used in creating a safe-mode indoors, but is not likely these restrictions would be popular, according to the IEEE.

“It’s called self-control,” said Scott Bentley, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “We’re supposed to enjoy the reality we are in now.”

Augmented reality has an appeal because it is a new idea with new technology,but there is a danger in how quickly it becomes addicting, Bentley said.

“Shifting your view to the side for too long can create problems, of course,” according to the IEEE. “But even if you avoid the temptation to glance at a notification appearing at the edge of your vision—waiting, perhaps, until you finish crossing a street—these intrusions still present a danger.”

Stories are spreading from drivers running red lights to individuals being killed due to their distraction, Bentley said.

“Why would augmented reality be bad for you but good for a fighter pilot?” according to the IEEE. “After all, a head-up display, like augmented-reality glasses, overlays information on a person’s view, obscuring it to some extent and potentially causing distraction. The difference is that an aircraft head-up display typically shows information in a highly symbolized and minimalistic way with little text and no images of people.”

Fighter pilots go through extensive training in order to quickly understand the information displayed, according to the IEEE.

“The manufacturers also need to educate the people who buy and use these devices of the hazards, perhaps using mandatory training games so they will learn the hazards before stepping out into the real world,” according to the IEEE. “After all, when we get our hands on new gadgets, our tendency is to start using them right away and to read the instructions later—if at all.”

There are cognitive assessment tools developers could use to increase user safety and to help them understand the dangers, according to the IEEE.

“The news is not all bad, though,” according to the IEEE. “Used properly, augmented reality can help those who already have difficulty navigating the world.”

Individuals with sight impairments and even victims of Parkinson’s disease have benefited from this new technology, according to the IEEE.

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