Who among us hasn’t unknowingly fallen into an open manhole, or accidentally strolled into an active construction site, while distracted by our phones? But a problem caused by technology can only be solved with more technology, right? So a design student has created a wearable robotic third eye that warns distracted users about obstacles they fail to see.
Created and built by industrial design student Minwook Paeng as part of their pursuit of an Innovation Design Engineering degree at London’s Royal College of Art, the robotic eye is the ultimate band-aid solution to a problem that could be easily resolved by everyone just keeping their phones in their pockets while out and about — which is something that’s never actually going to happen.
As an alternative to focusing on anything other than our friend’s lives as carefully curated through social media, the eye attaches to the wearer’s forehead and opens its eyelid — a mechanical door that slides up and down — when an Arduino-powered gyroscope detects the wearer’s head is pointing down, instead of straight ahead. This reveals the robotic eye’s pupil, which instead of a camera is an ultrasonic sensor that is calibrated to detect impending objects at a distance and warn the user with a loud beeping-buzzing sound.
If everything works as it’s designed to, and the wearer isn’t in a distracted flat-out run, there should be more than enough time to look up when the alarm sounds, notice the object of concern, and navigate around it. But it seemingly only works for objects like walls, lamp posts, traffic pylons, and other distracted pedestrians. The robotic eye is useless against open manholes, the ACME rollable holes that Wile E. Coyote is so fond of, and thought-provoking Anish Kapoor art installations.