Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Contest Rewards Developers Who Use Smartphones to Prevent Smartphone Distractions

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TWC News: Contest Rewards Developers Who Use Smartphones to Prevent Smartphone Distractions
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Phones are often blamed for distracting people, putting them in danger, but a new contest is designed to reward developers who create projects that use those phones to prevent distractions. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

Drowsy Detector uses your phone's camera to keep an eye on your eyes to make sure you don't doze off behind the wheel. Rider Alert scans the streets for Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and then warns you, whether you're driving or walking, that a cyclist may be near. SafeDrive is a game that rewards players with points and prizes for seeing how long they can go for a drive without texting.

Those are just three of the eight winners chosen as part of AT&T's Connected Intersection Challenge, looking for the best ways to get all of us to use our phones to protect us from our phones.

"We're looking for ways for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to keep their phones in their pockets or on their seats or wherever else and have ways for them to be signaled if there's a danger," says Marissa Shorenstein of AT&T.

Some of the solutions look beyond just the phone. The Anti-Sleep Alarm is an app for the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch that can tell, based on the user's movements behind the wheel, if he or she is about to fall asleep, then sends sounds and vibration alerts to wake them up. Another one, called "Tug," thanks to some extra hardware on the pedestrian post, warns you if you're about to cross an intersection while texting.

"If the hand is orange, we have a small Bluetooth receiver on the pedestrian post that within a small radius will signify to people who are about to cross on their phones, they'll get a notification that'll say, 'Hey, don't walk. Look up,'" says Daniel Levine of Cornell Tech.

The New York City Department of Transportation, where all of these apps are being tested, says it's all for anything to make streets safer and more civil.

"Most of these solutions actually just involve opting in, right? So if everybody has these solutions and these apps on their phone, they can use them," says Kim Wiley-Schwartz of the Department of Transportation. "A few of the ideas involve some more infrastructure, and we're going to have to take that a little bit farther."

Most of the winning app developers got cash prizes in the hopes that they'll use that money to further develop these solutions and get them on the roads ASAP.

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