Using heads-up display technology like Google Glass may slow down the brain’s response time, a new study has warned. That could pose issues for people driving, when a delay of a few seconds could mean the difference between life and death, researchers said.
Heads-up display technology offers lots of information to users in seconds, literally in front of their eyes.
Access to information is critical in today’s fast-paced world, but the research at the University of Central Florida in the US indicates that the multitasking needed to process that readily available information may slow down the brain’s response time.
“The idea here is to explore to what extent displayed secondary information might interfere with the primary task at hand, such as driving,” said Mark Neider, a UCF psychology associate professor.
“What our data suggests is secondary information presented on a heads-up display is likely to interfere, and if that happens while driving, it may be distracting and dangerous,” said Neider.
Lewis had 363 UCF psychology student participants complete a primary task similar to “Where’s Waldo?” on a computer, while some wore Google Glass and others did not.
Participants were told to complete the primary task and were given secondary instructions based on which experiment they were in.
Some students were told to ignore the information that pops up on Google Glass, while others were told to try to remember the information.
In all the experiments, students wearing the Google Glass technology, which is worn like eyeglasses and displays a small screen over the user’s right eye, took longer to complete the primary task than those who were not.
Potential reasons behind these findings are that humans have a natural inclination to process language, and in this case two visual stimuli - the primary task and the secondary information from Google Glass - were competing for the visual-processing capabilities in the students’ brains, resulting in the slower pace to complete the primary task, Lewis said.
Although Google Glass currently is not a widespread product, the heads-up technology it uses is gaining popularity, researchers said. Some automobile manufacturers have introduced this technology into its vehicles by displaying speed on the windshield, among other scenarios.
Although the vehicle’s speed is related to the primary task of driving, the technology opens doors to the possibility of information not related to driving being displayed.
“The goal here is to make the case that we should be careful, and just because we can [integrate heads-up display technology into everyday activities] doesn’t mean we should,” Lewis said. The findings were published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.