Award Winning Google Glass Research

Sawyer - Award group picIn 2014, Psychology Ph.D. candidate Ben Sawyer, was the lead researcher and wrote the first peer reviewed study looking at the driving distraction potential of Google Glass. In his study it showed the novel device to be less distracting in some ways than an Android phone, but still dangerous compared to just driving. This summer, his paper “Google Glass: Driver Distraction Cause or Cure”, won the International Ergonomics Association’s K.U. Smith (IEA K.U.) Award. This award is given to the best Ergonomics-related student paper over a three year period in any peer-reviewed journal.  Sawyer traveled to Melbourne, Australia to receive the award.

Launched in 1997, the winners of the IEA K.U. Smith Student Award receives a cash reward. These students has shown application of or contribution to ergonomics. This award provides a tangible means by which the International Ergonomics Association can encourage the development of the discipline, foster scholarship and recognize worthy achievements.

Conducted at The University of Central Florida in partnership with Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL), Sawyer’s study revealed that users messaging on Google Glass (Glass) or a smartphone both reacted slowly to an unexpected obstacle as compared to those just driving with the devices present. However, Glass did help messaging users recover from suddenly hitting the brakes and return to normal driving more quickly.

Sawyer states that “You can ask a texting teen driver to put down the phone, but can you apply the same logic to a police officer receiving information about a crime in progress, or a soldier relying on messages to relay battlefield dangers?  Increasingly, crucial information must be provided to those engaged in complex and potentially dangers jobs. As a recent graduate, I see a strong future in technological distraction countermeasures that maximize comprehension while minimizing risk.”

The paper, which was published in the journal Human Factors, also found that drivers using Glass followed cars ahead much more closely after the close call, suggesting Glass imparts a reduced perception of risk. Finally, simply wearing Glass without using it resulted in poorer vehicle control during recovery. Sawyer cautioned potential Glass users, “While Glass-delivered messaging has benefits, it does not in any way make driving-while-messaging safe.”Sawyer - Google glass

Sawyer’s advisor, and the director at UCF’s MIT2 Laboratory, Peter Hancock, Ph.D., accompanied Sawyer on the trip to Melbourne, Australia, and received the Inaugural IEA Elsevier John Wilson Award. This award is presented in honor of John Wilson (1951-2013), former director of the Institute of Occupational Ergonomics until his departure and Head of the Human Factors Group (until 2006). The IEA/Elsevier John Wilson Award recognizes major contributions in the field of applied ergonomics.

Sawyer holds multiple degrees in Psychology and Industrial Engineering. This past Friday he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation.  Sawyer expects to earn his Ph.D. in experimental psychology and human factors from UCF in 2015. His research interests center around successes and failures of attention in human-machine systems.

The Montana native previously won multiple awards for both his design work as an engineer and his research in attention and usability as a psychologist. He is a two-time Repperger Scholar with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), having worked with the 711th Human Performance Wing in both their Battlefield Acoustics and Applied Neuroscience divisions. He spent this past summer as a visiting researcher for The University of Canterbury in Chirstchurch New Zealand. Currently he works with his adviser, Peter Hancock, as a research associate for the MIT2 Laboratory.

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