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Amid debate, Google Glass app wakes drowsy drivers

Friday - 1/17/2014, 4:50am  ET

drivesafe for glass vignette (drivesafe)
The DriveSafe for Glass app helps keep drowsy drivers awake. (Courtesy DriveSafe)

WASHINGTON - As the controversy continues over whether a driver should wear Google Glass behind the wheel, a new app for the wearable computer is available that helps keep drowsy drivers awake.

"We're using the sensors built on Glass to help detect when drivers are falling asleep behind the wheel," says Jake Steinerman, lead developer of DriveSafe for Glass.

Google Glass, with its optical head-mounted display, uses verbal commands and taps to project images on a tiny screen located just above a user's line of sight.

Glass is not yet available to the public, although the number of people - dubbed Explorers by Google, and willing to pay $1500 for the device - is growing quickly.

"You can just say 'Okay, Glass - keep me awake,'" says Steinerman.

Steinerman says the software - or glassware, when related to Glass - uses the devices infrared sensor to detect how many times a user blinks, as well as a tilt sensor to determine whether a person's head is tilting back and forth.

If the sensors indicate a driver is drowsy, a voice command sounds.

"We're still tweaking the exact words, but it's along the lines of 'It looks like you're falling asleep, you should pull over. If you want directions to the nearest rest stop, just tap on Glass,'" says Steinerman.

Thursday, California driver Cecilia Abadie was cleared after contesting what is believed to be the first citation for wearing Glass while driving.

Steinerman says lawmakers' debate over whether it should be illegal to wear Glass while driving is premature.

"I don't think most have or any of them have tried Glass for themselves," says Steinerman, "or at least tried it behind the wheel."

Steinerman says Glass is designed to provide snippets of information quickly, and that moments later the information disappears and the tiny screen goes dark.

When initializing DriveSafe for Glass, a graphic reading "Keeping you awake" appears on the screen.

"Two seconds later the display disappears. It shuts off completely, and you won't see it again until it detects you're falling asleep," says Steinerman.

"In most cases, day to day, the screen is off 90 to 99 percent of the time."

DriveSafe is not yet integrated into the MyGlass control app, so users who want to experiment with it must side-load it onto Glass.

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