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Study shows potential for AR to divert attention rather than augment reality

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Ben McCabe

Written on 26/06/2015 | Posted 2 years 7 months 24 days ago

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Jaguar is among the companies that have explored the concept of AR-integrated windscreens Jaguar is among the companies that have explored the concept of AR-integrated windscreens

Research into the effects of augmented reality on humans' spatial perception has indicated that the incorporation of such technology into areas such as car windshields could distract from, rather than improve, a user's ability to pay attention to their surroundings.

The study, titled 'The commingled division of visual attention', was conducted by the University of Toronto and looked into the effects of visual aids and the use of other digital devices such as smartphones during travel. Participants were asked to identify a number of randomly arranged spots on a screen, occasionally accompanied by a random, distinctive shape such as a triangle or square, which replicated the effect of content displayed through an AR screen.

In the instance of the distinct shape appearing on the display, the ability to accurately determine the location of the surrounding spots diminished significantly, while the shape was often identified incorrectly or went unnoticed. 

"Observers made both judgements more slowly when the shape appeared among the spots by as much as 200 percent," comments Professor Ian Spence, the lead researcher on the project. "The two visual tasks interfered with each other and impaired both reaction speed and accuracy.

"Missed warnings and slowed reaction times present real threats to safety," he continues. "Furthermore, this rivalry for the driver's attention is most likely to occur when the driving environment is demanding."

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