Peak hour in the age of smartphones is wild. People are speed-walking in any and every direction, with their eyes glued down on their smartphones. This morning on the way into work, four separate people walked straight into me because they weren’t looking where they were going.
My instinct was to be annoyed at them for not watching where they’re going, but then I realised that would be hypocritical, as I often walk and text at the same time too.
We live in such an on-the-go world, where we’re constantly expected to communicate and be available online, not only just for our job but also for our friends and family.
Minwook Paeng, an industrial design student, understands this dilemma and has done something about it.
He has created a robotic Third Eye that is fixed to the forehead – like a head torch – and looks out for obstacles when the wearer’s actual eyes are glued to their smartphone.
The Third Eye automatically opens its plastic eyelid when the head is tilted downwards, and sounds a warning buzz if a hazard is detected anywhere up to a metre ahead.
Developed as part of his Innovation Design Engineering degree at London’s Royal College of Art, Paeng’s design provides a satirical look at how human are evolving into “phono sapiens”.
“By using smartphones in a bad posture, our neck vertebrae are leaning forward giving us ‘turtle neck syndrome’ and the pinkies we rest our phones on are bending along the way,” he told Dezeen.
“When a few generations go by, these small changes from smartphone usage will accumulate and create a completely different, new form of mankind.”
Made using open-source electronics platform Arduino, the Third Eye consists of a translucent plastic shell, that is fixed to the forehead using a thin gel pad. This holds a speaker and a gyroscope, which a sensor used in a smartphone to detect the orientations of the phone (it’s what automatically rotates the screen).
In the case of the Third Eye, the gyroscope detects when the user’s head is angled down and opens the plastic eyelid to reveal a sonar sensor.
“The black component that looks like a pupil is an ultrasonic sensor for sensing distance,” the designer explained.
“When an obstacle is in front of the user, the ultrasonic sensor detects this and informs the user via a connected buzzer.”
Instead of denying our unhealthy phone habits, Paeng’s design accepts them as an inevitable reality and ultimately exposes the absurdity of prioritising our screens over face-to-face interaction (or looking up as we cross the road).