Age-Based Feedback Touted for Drivers' Navigation Systems

A team from Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs will present their findings at Pervasive 2012 on how drivers process the sensory feedback from a haptic steering wheel.

A study evaluating combinations of audio, visual, and haptic feedback for route guidance found younger drivers in particular were less distracted by a navigation system's display screen when they received haptic feedback from the vibrating steering wheel. For older drivers, however, haptic feedback only reinforced auditory cues they already prefer, a team of five researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs found. Adding sensory inputs may not help older drivers because the increase inputs can strain the brain's ability to process them, they concluded.

The "Route Guidance Modality for Elder Driver Navigation" paper by SeungJun Kim, Jin-Hyuk Hong, Kevin Li, Jodi Forlizzi, and Anind Dey will be presented June 21 at Pervasive 2012, the Tenth International Conference on Pervasive Computing, will be at Newcastle University in England.

AT&T is working on a haptic steering wheel with 20 actuators positioned on its rim and able to be fired in any order. For this study, firing them in a clockwise sequence told a driver to turn right, in a counterclockwise sequence told them to turn left.

The study showed a vibrating steering wheel is an effective way to keep a driver's eyes safely on the road by providing an additional pathway to communicate directions from a car's navigation system. "Our findings suggest that, as navigation systems become more elaborate, it would be best to personalize the sensory feedback system based, at least in part, on the driver's age," said Kim, systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

"By using these types of vibration cues, we are taking advantage of what people are already familiar with, making them easier to learn," said Li, a researcher with AT&T's user interface group in Florham Park, N.J.

The study tested 16 drivers ages 16-36 and 17 older than 65 who drove a course that included traffic lights, stop signs, and pedestrians. The researchers monitored the drivers' heart rate, pupil size, blink rate, brain wave activity, and other measures of attention and cognitive load.

The project was done as part of the National Science Foundation-sponsored Quality of Life Technology Center.

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