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Study: Behind the Wheel, Google Glass Distracts as Much as Smartphones

By Mobile FOXBusiness

Google (GOOGL) Glass may be a hands-free device … but it’s still a distraction to drivers.  

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According to new research from the University of Central Florida, sending messages while using Google Glass is just as distracting as texting on a smartphone.

“Google Glass: A Driver Distraction Cause or Cure,” published in peer-reviewed journal Human Factors, examined how long it took drivers to respond to a car suddenly braking ahead of them. Though Google Glass enables drivers to send messages using their voice -- allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel -- the wearable tech was equally as distracting as a smartphone.

“It was not only enough to be a statistical difference, but also a real-world difference,” said researcher Ben D. Sawyer, a Ph.D. candidate in experimental psychology at UCF. Sawyer, who has a master’s degree in industrial engineering and a bachelor’s in psychology, studies the interaction between humans and machines.

While Google Glass might not have caused drivers to brake more quickly, it did have one advantage over the Galaxy Nexus smartphone used in the experiment. Sawyer said drivers wearing Google Glass were better at recovering after the sudden braking incident than drivers who were texting from their phones.

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Though the study may be somewhat discouraging to techies hoping to multitask behind the wheel, Sawyer said it’s not all bad news for Google Glass's future on the road. Sawyer points to researchers like Wichita State University’s Jibo He, who is conducting research on Google Glass apps that could help detect driver fatigue and actually improve driving.

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“I think you can’t get rid of the cognitive component [entirely],” said Sawyer, explaining that no matter the delivery method, a message containing new information will at least momentarily distract a driver.

But he added that there may be ways to improve the way messages are delivered in order to make them less of a distraction.

Researching the effects of wearable tech on driving has implications not only for the everyday driver but also for the military and emergency responders, said Sawyer, whose research was conducted in cooperation with the United States Air Force.

“The Air Force’s interest is not to necessarily deploy Google Glass to soldiers. They’re interested in getting our men and women the information they need, without putting them in danger -- and driving is not the most dangerous thing they do,” said Sawyer.

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