Kyle Rector
The University of Iowa
Computer Science
Joseph Kearney
The University of Iowa
Computer Science
Jodie Plumert
The University of Iowa
Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences




Using Augmented Reality to Help Older Adults Make Safe Road-Crossing Decisions

Pedestrian injuries and deaths caused by motor vehicles are a major concern worldwide. Older adults (ages 65+) encompassed 20% of all pedestrian fatalities in 2017. Assistive technology offers a potential means of improving road safety for older pedestrians. One type of assistive technology is the use of smartphone apps to convey information to pedestrians about when it is safe or unsafe to cross a road (vehicle-to-pedestrian communication). However, this work has also shown that it is difficult to unambiguously convey prohibitive warnings that indicate when it is not safe to cross. In the study with older pedestrians, for example, participants sometimes had difficulty matching the auditory warning to the correct visual gap. As a result, they relied on their judgment rather than the prohibitive warnings. Another type of assistive technology is the use of augmented reality (AR) displays to convey relevant traffic information to pedestrians. AR displays can overlay graphics on the roadway to visually indicate which gaps between vehicles are safe vs. unsafe to cross. At present, however, little is known about how AR technology can be used to convey information to assist older pedestrians.
This project aims to evaluate whether AR street overlays that offer road-crossing guidance about crossable vs. uncrossable gaps will help older adults make safer crossing decisions. Participants will perform a road-crossing task in an immersive pedestrian simulator in which they repeatedly cross a continuous stream of traffic comprised of crossable and uncrossable gaps. AR technology will be implemented by placing visual overlays directly onto the virtual environment that inform pedestrians about whether a gap is safe or unsafe to cross. Such overlays could be displayed by AR glasses in the real world. We expect that older pedestrians will comply with both the permissive and prohibitive overlays and will report that both are equally informative, in contrast to prior work on V2P communication.

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