A South Korean industrial designer has come up with a satirical solution for "smartphone zombies" who can't take their eyes away from their screen long enough to stop themselves walking into a wall or other obstacle.
Paeng Min-wook, 28, has developed a robotic eyeball he has dubbed "The Third Eye", which obsessive mobile phone users can strap to their foreheads so they can browse injury-free on the go.
The device, part of an artwork Paeng has called "Phono Sapiens", opens its translucent eyelid whenever it senses the user's head has been lowered to look at a smartphone. When the user comes within one to two metres of an obstacle, the device beeps to warn of the impending danger.
"This is the look of future mankind with three eyes," Paeng, a postgraduate in innovation design engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, told Reuters as he demonstrated use of The Third Eye around Seoul.
"As we cannot take our eyes off from smartphones, the extra eye will be needed in future." Paeng's invention uses a gyro sensor to measure the oblique angle of the user's neck and an ultrasonic sensor to calculate the distance between the robotic eye and any obstacles. Both sensors are linked to an open-source single-board microcontroller, with battery pack.
Paeng's demonstration of the device in Seoul this week garnered attention from passersby.
"I thought he looked like an alien with an eye on his forehead," Seoul resident, Lee Ok-jo, said. "These days many young people can get into accidents while using their mobile phone. This would be good for them." Paeng plans to develop a camera module for the Third Eye and a linked mobile phone application, but he has no plans to commercialise his invention - a stance that he might consider changing given potential demand.
"It is so cool and interesting," said 23-year-old Shin Jae-ik. "We can easily bump into each other on street while using smartphones. I may not need it now, but I'd like to buy it when they sell it later."