Excluding than privacy concerns, Google Glass has already become a subject of debate among state officials. Chief among these concerns are drivers being impaired by Google Glass. Well, are they?
Categorizing Google Glass
Unlike other recent advances in technology, Glass has already undergone a great deal of scrutiny. Some lawmakers want to ban Glass use on the road altogether, seeing the device as a distraction, liability, and something similar to a cell phone.
In some states, hands-free devices must be used while driving. People have started favoring bluetooth headsets over holding their phones up to their ears (but I still see many people using their hands still). This brings a troublesome question to the surface — what IS Google Glass?
Technically, you can use it without your hands. In fact, it can be operated by using voice commands alone. Well, that satisfies the hands-free requirement! But, that’s not the only feature that Glass has in its corner.
Glass is also a bluetooth headset. Yes, you can take your calls on it. You can also send text messages simply by speaking to the device, and Glass has a built-in feature that reads received text messages to you. For those who have seen the “texting while driving” campaigns we’ve been exposed to on TV or the radio, don’t worry — with Glass, a driver’s eyes can remain on the road.
Perhaps the largest concern that officials have is the small video screen.
Glass Doesn’t Block Your Vision
Google Glass is equipped with a prism that projects a video screen in front of the user’s right eye. People’s first reaction to this is, “You are driving with something in front of your eye? No way!” Pardon them for their blinding ignorance.
The prism actually is designed to sit above your eye, right around your brow level. This way it is not blocking the center of your field of vision. The prism is also clear and has nothing behind it, so you can see right through it unlike some other Glass-like prototypes.
If you’d like further proof about the field of vision that Glass occupies, I visited Dr. Isaac Porter, and ophthalmologist in North Carolina. We performed some visual field tests with me wearing Glass.
A GPS Example
On my recent trip to North Carolina, I spent about 12 hours behind the wheel while wearing Glass. Did I feel distracted? No. Did my hands have to leave the wheel to use the device? No. In fact, I feel that using the Glass GPS navigation features is a lot safer than how we use our current GPS devices. I’ll elaborate a bit on the GPS situation.
There are 2 types of people that currently use GPS systems: those with windshield mounts, and those that are required to direct their attention elsewhere to look at their GPS. I have problems with each.
The windshield mount is closer to a Glass experience. It allows a driver to briefly focus their attention somewhere close to the windshield, and lets the driver use their peripheral vision to see the road. It also creates a blind spot on your windshield where the mount and GPS sits.
The other type of GPS user has to direct their full attention away from the windshield. I don’t think I need to clarify the potential dangers involved in that.
Now About Glass And Driving
The prism placement on Google Glass is key to visibility. The prism actually sits right on the sun visor in my Camry, so it doesn’t obstruct my windshield at all!
Granted, how Glass fits on a person’s face could have a great deal to do with the prism’s placement. When I’ve been allowing others to try on my Glass device, sometimes the prism sits directly in front of their eye. This also causes them not to see the display correctly because it’s supposed to be above the eye, so an actual Glass owner would have this issue fixed.
I’ll circle back the GPS analogy. With Glass, I only have to glance about 30 degrees upward to see the screen. Remember, the prism lays on my sun visor. This lets me keep the majority of my focus well within the threshold of the windshield.
Even without Glass, we have plenty of distractions to overcome while driving. It’s whether we choose to pay attention to or ignore these distractions that makes all the difference.