WalkSafe app shields smartphone pedestrians (w/ video)

Nov 28, 2011 by Nancy Owano report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Smartphone users who as pedestrians are not very smart about crossing and looking both ways now have a protective shield in the form of an Android app which they can download for free. A research team from Dartmouth College and the University of Bologna, Italy, are offering their new app, WalkSafe, which uses the camera on a smart phone to detect oncoming traffic. The phone then alerts the user.

Tianyu Wang, Giuseppe Cardone, Antonio Corradi, Lorenzo Torresani, Andrew T. Campbell Dartmouth College-University of Bologna Mobile Sensing Group are the developers. Using a Nexus One phone, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the WalkSafe app can reliably detect oncoming cars as far as 50 meters away. The app relies on machine-learning and image-recognition algorithms to identify the fronts and backs of vehicles. The app takes into account varying light conditions, phone tilt, and blur, for an accurate picture of the road.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The phone transmits a loud vibration to warn the pedestrian of oncoming cars. WalkSafe can be downloaded for free through the Market.

Andrew T. Campbell, professor of at Dartmouth, is head of the Sensing Group which worked on the app; he had working experience in the on the development of operating systems and previously. At Dartmouth, his work is focused on smartphones as devices that can be used to sense, inform and persuade people, he says, about their health and well-being.

Similarly, his Smartphone Sensing Group, which began working on mobile phone sensing in 2006, is still asking the question, "How do we make smartphones even smarter?" which is their working goal. They have gone on to build sophisticated mobile sensing apps and systems. Included in the numerous developments listed on the group’s site are the Neural Phone, EyePhone, and Darwin Phones.

“Smartphones are open and programmable and come with a growing number of powerful embedded sensors, such as an accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope, GPS, microphone, and camera, which are enabling new sensing applications across a wide variety of domains such as social networks, mobile health, gaming, entertainment, education and transportation.,” says the group.

The App Store and Market both as application delivery channels, they say, “have transformed plain old cell phones” into far more interesting app-phone devices that are capable of downloading a variety of apps instantly.

The group plans to continue working on the app, to speed up the recognition algorithm.

Explore further: Blink, point, solve an equation: Introducing PhotoMath

More information:
Lab page: sensorlab.cs.dartmouth.edu/
The app on the Android market: market.android.com/details?id=… artmouth.cs.walksafe

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User comments : 12

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Temple
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 28, 2011
The moment you rely on this, instead of looking both ways to make sure it is safe, you are just begging to get smoked by a car.

I look at my phone a fair bit when I'm walking around, but I *always* put it down to my side whenever I cross an intersection/alley opening.

I'm also the kind of person that thinks there are two kinds of people in the world:

1. Those who only cross when the little man says it's safe.
2. Those who only cross when it's safe.

Very different.
Ricochet
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2011
Here's my issue... who the hell has their phone turned up or down the street when they're looking at it? It'll be pointed mostly in front of them, most likely aimed somewhat toward the ground, so whatever's on the camera won't be the street or what's on it.
They'd be better to have the app recognize the transition from sidewalk to street and notify when you get close to that rather than look for cars...
gwrede
3 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2011
I think this will actually increase accidents.

No person in their right mind should rely on shaky tech for their very life! And the day you lose the phone and switch to your old one, you're so dead, so fast.
Silverhill
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2011
This reminds me of the semi-joke about the two categories of New York City pedestrians: "the quick and the dead."

Those who don't quickly learn to pause their use of the phone *just for a few seconds* will find themselves in the second category.
Maybe, while communicating about a true dire emergency, you might forget to check for traffic -- but there are NO other phone calls that are so important that you can't say to the other party, "Hold on for a few seconds while I get across this street."

"Just think of it as evolution in action." (credit: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, in _Oath of Fealty_)
Cave_Man
3 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2011
Great for blind people duh
robbor
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2011
coming up,an app that ties your shoelaces
_nigmatic10
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2011
We continue to make stupid safe. The end result is the creation of tech zombies. *nods*
Graeme
not rated yet Nov 29, 2011
They would need a double fisheye lens to cope with whatever orientation the phone was aimed. Perhaps the microphone could be used to detect cars for those with the earbuds in.
powerup1
2 / 5 (4) Nov 29, 2011
If you think that this app can be improved on, go and do it. You can whine about something and do nothing about it, or you can make your own app. Which one do you think would be more productive?
CHollman82
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2011
You can whine about something and do nothing about it, or you can make your own app.


False Dichotomy... how about not relying on an "app" to cross the street in the first place?
mattytheory
not rated yet Nov 29, 2011
I agree with Chollman82. People shouldn't need an app to know how to look both ways. It literally takes 2 seconds and it can save your life. This just goes to show how people are increasingly becoming reliant on other "things" instead of themselves for something that is really simple.

I'll take it a step further. Anyone who needs this app is slowing the progress of humanity by not letting themselves get hit by a car. Darwin for the win.
Ricochet
not rated yet Nov 29, 2011
[flamewar fodder]Perhaps they should reverse the app and only tell the pedestrian it's safe to cross when it really isn't... then those genes whose offspring need to use the app will disappear into the gene pool.[/flamewar fodder]