Radio 2 report says ‘monocle’ enables drivers to access emails

12.00 | 14 January 2013 | | 6 comments

A consumer technology report on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Big Show’ on 10 January included reference to a computer monitor that fits over the eye and can enable drivers to access emails, messages, and videos while driving.

On the show, which is presented by Steve Wright, technology expert Olly Mann explained how the Vuzix M100 is much like a “monocle”.

Olly Mann said: “It’s connected via Bluetooth to your phone, and the idea is that you can be driving along, glance upwards, and see for example, a text message.”

Steve Wright said that this sounds dangerous, but Olly Mann claimed that he had used it and “it’s just the same as seeing a sign you’re passing on the motorway”.

The Vuzix website describes the product as follows: "Vuzix smart glasses M100 is the world’s first enhanced "Hands Free" smartphone display and communications system for on-the-go data access from your Smartphone and the Internet.

"Running applications under the Android operating system; text, video, email, mapping, audio and all we have come to expect from smartphones is available through this wireless personal information display system."

Commenting on the use of the device, Nick Reed, principal human factors researcher at TRL, said: "Use of a monocle device to allow a driver to access emails, messages and videos may reduce the amount of time the driver takes their eyes away from the road in order to view such communications compared to use of a smartphone.

"However, as with a smartphone, one must also consider the degree to which this device results in cognitive distraction of the driver. Even if the driver has their eye on the road, their mind may be distracted by the content of an incoming message, resulting in distraction effects that may limit a driver’s ability to respond in safety critical situations.

"Similarly, the apparent ease of using the device may encourage a driver to use it more often, potentially worsening the problem. 

"I would be keen for validated tests to be conducted to see if the claimed benefits are there and whether there are any distraction effects that may potentially place drivers and road users at risk."

Click here to listen to the discussion on The Big Show.

FOOTNOTE: we invited The Big Show to comment on this story but to date have not had a response.

Acknowledgement: thanks to Caroline Derosaire, Monmouthshire CC, for bringing this to our attention.


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    Luke, the change would be that the authorities would be condoning a highly dangerous (& illegal) practice. There are too many distractions, added to the fact that cars are themselves less involving to drive.

    Olly, Lancs.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Most car and van drivers I see are already checking their emails on their phones whilst driving – or texting – so I can’t see how this will change things.

    Luke – London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Olly Mann is misguided, invariably you do not read a road sign, you scan it & recognise it, whereas an email involves reading, concentration and sometiomes re-reading and your concentration then goes to a response. Not the same at all, too many distractions already in the cabin.

    Olly, Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Happy to agree both with TRL and the two comments before this. Quite mad, at least as much distraction as on a mobile phone.

    The comparison with seeing road signs is utterly specious and self-serving. Road signs relate to the task at hand and provide helpful information (though sometimes too much) This device distracts the reader to issues nothing to do with driving. Ban it, now.

    Idris Francis Fight back with facts
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The human brain is stretched enough as it is when we ask it to cope with driving since our since our attention and short-term memory resources are very limited – putting any more strain on it is asking for disaster.

    People who do secondary tasks whilst using the roads (all road users, not just drivers should be aware of their information processing limitations) or talk about doing secondary tasks as if it does not impair performance are showing a serious lack of knowledge. Problem is too many people get away with it for society to have the view it is poor practice.

    Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Olly Mann needs a serious reality check. Anything, that intereferes with driver/rider concentration is a dangerous development and should be outlawed, and this is certainly one that should be stopped now. Olly Mann may be a technology expert, but he obviously has absolutely no knowledge of road safety. Mobile phones are bad enough, but this is ridiculous. I suggest he does some research on driver distraction, before he makes comments like this.

    Stephen Mann. (No relation as far as i know) Spain.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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