Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
People wearing glasses to observe a solar eclipse.

In a world where technology is increasingly integrated into daily activities, an Israeli study raises new concerns about the use of smart glasses while simply walking.

Smart glasses are wearable devices that integrate augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology into a pair of glasses or sunglasses. They typically consist of a display, a camera, sensors, and connectivity capabilities such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Smart glasses can overlay digital information onto the wearer’s field of view, providing real-time data, notifications, navigation assistance, or immersive experiences.

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Like smartphones, smart glasses can be distracting to users, particularly when they display notifications or other information directly in the wearer’s field of view. This distraction can pose safety risks, especially when users are engaged in activities such as driving or operating machinery.

“Our study shows that when walking, the smart glasses reduce the ability to perform both walking and reading texts, and this can also have an impact on the safety of the users,” said Dr. Tal Krasovsky of the University of Haifa, who led the study.

The study, recently published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, examined the impact of performing a reading task while walking with two different types of smart glasses versus using a mobile phone. Krasovky’s team conducted experiments in both a closed corridor and a busy shopping avenue, simulating real-world walking scenarios.

Contrary to the assumption that smart glasses, with their heads-up display feature, might enhance multitasking capabilities, the findings suggested otherwise.

Participants reading text messages through smart glasses experienced a notable 20% reduction in walking speed compared to those using mobile phones. This decrease in pace not only compromises efficiency but also poses safety concerns, as the average walking speed fell below the minimum required to cross intersections safely, the researchers said.

Moreover, the study revealed a decline in walking stability among smart glasses users, indicating potential challenges in maintaining balance while engaging with digital content. Additionally, participants exhibited a decreased reading speed and comprehension when using smart glasses compared to mobile phones, suggesting that the technology may hinder rather than facilitate reading on the go.

One of the most striking outcomes of the research was the reported higher mental load experienced by smart glasses users. This indicates that the cognitive demands associated with reading through smart glasses are more taxing than those associated with mobile phones, highlighting a potential drawback of wearable technology in everyday scenarios.

Dr. Krasovsky emphasized the importance of understanding the implications of integrating digital information into common activities such as walking. While wearable computing, including products like Apple’s Vision Pro glasses, represents a significant technological advancement, it is crucial to consider its impact on user safety and efficiency.

The study’s findings raise concerns about the suitability of smart glasses for tasks requiring simultaneous attention to digital content and physical surroundings. As texting while walking has been associated with increased risks of accidents and injuries, the adoption of smart glasses for similar purposes may exacerbate these dangers, the researchers said.

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