Device Watches Where You Walk

Wednesday, March 26th 2008, 1:05 am
By: News On 6

We start out crawling, and then graduate to walking.  After that, we don't think much about it.  The News On 6's Joshua Brakhage reports a new device used in a military study could save soldiers' lives and help civilians keep their feet on the ground in new surroundings.

This looks like a tactical training mission for the military, but it's actually an exercise in walking.

"Everyone worries about driving while distracted -- well you need to worry about walking while distracted, as well," said Psychologist Jason Augustyn.

Human Factors Psychologist Jason Augustyn feels that is especially true for soldiers walking on unfamiliar terrain, so he combined eye tracking with dual tasking.  The device analyzes how a soldier allocates his attention while walking over terrain of varying complexity.  It's equipped with an infrared camera that records corneal reflections. A second camera records the scene.

Soldiers are then asked to walk in a virtual reality room and perform a second task, like searching for a sniper. The results showed accuracy on the second task declined as terrain complexity increased. 

"It shows you really have to pay attention to your surroundings where you are walking what you are looking at if you don't you could get hurt you could lose your life," said U.S. Army research technician.

The findings appear to hold true for civilians, especially when walking with modern day distractions like cell phones and music players.

"You have to pay attention to what you are doing, especially if you are in a situation where the terrain is more complicated, icy sidewalks, dirt gravel, leaves, things of that nature," said Psychologist Jason Augustyn.

The military hopes to show added support may be needed in combat depending upon the terrain soldiers patrol.

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