The App That Looks Both Ways for You

By Veronique Greenwood | November 30, 2011 1:50 pm

The average city street these days sports quite a number of people gazing down into their phones as they walk, unable to tear their eyes from a text or email, or gabbing away to their second cousin while checking their manicure. If you are among those who prefer to walk upright, watching for oncoming semis, you may have noticed that these people don’t look at walk signals to tell when to cross; instead, they wait until their peripheral vision picks up a phoneless pedestrian making a move for it. I am frequently in that pedestrian, and am not above making occasional false starts to watch people jerk like fish on a line. Sorry, folks.

But! A day is coming when these phone addicts may no longer need to watch you from the corner of their eyes to gauge when it’s safe to cross. Scientists at Dartmouth and University of Bologna have built an app that will alert these pedestrians when collision with an oncoming vehicle is imminent with a helpful series of vibrations and chirrups.

The app, called WalkSafe, uses the phone’s built-in camera to watch traffic and apply vision learning algorithms to identify car-like objects, going on to identify the object’s direction of movement and current speed. It can pick up cars as far away as 160 feet, and if the vehicle is moving at more than 30 mph, the phone will ring and buzz in warning.

However, the camera on the front of the phone does have to be facing traffic. If you’re gazing down into your screen to trade lulz with your bestie, even WalkSafe can’t save you.

[via Technology Review]

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