Smartphones did really change everything…including the way humans walk

Smartphones did really change everything…including the way humans walk
We have all seen people tripping up and down stairs, bumping nose-first into lamp posts, being almost hit by a car, etc. – as they all stare down at a mobile device of some form. And by people, we mean ourselves, too, as nowadays most of us zone out of real world and into the digital realm, even when we are out and about.

Apparently, walking and being engaged with your phone, talking or texting, changes your body’s behaviour vastly, according to a recent study at Anglia Ruskin University, UK. Scientists used motion sensors to record how a subject’s body moved, as he or she walked and used a phone, and eye-tracking equipment to measure eye behaviour.

For the purpose of the experiment, participants had a kerb-like object placed in front of them, which they had to overstep in three different cases – when texting, talking or when not using a mobile phone.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the amount of time people spent looking at the obstacle was reduced by up to 61%, irrespective of whether the subjects texted or talked on the phone. Of course, the percentage was higher when people texted, as compared to talking, but the scores were not wildly different.

The study found that people’s lead foot was 18% higher when they were overcoming the obstacle in front of them, and moved up to 40% slower, compared to when they were not using a phone at all. Naturally, one’s conscious visual effort is largely consumed by the desire to not make spelling mistakes or correctly read a received message. This takes vision-spatial attention away from resources going to scanning for possible hazards in the way, limiting one’s ability to spot an object or avoid one. 

Yes, guys, our bodies change and we become dangerous to ourselves and others, as many of us rarely let go of our phones, even when on the move. Some European countries, as well as China, have already began work on implementing special lanes and signs, in order to accommodate the masses of downward-staring humans on the move.

Maybe this will change, once we have an AR headset, think Google Glass, but a lot more functional; completely eye-controlled and capable of fulfilling your smartphone’s duties. However, we do think people will stare mindlessly into seemingly empty space, as they navigate menus in their visual field, which could lead to new, different forms of body changes and hazards. It’s like we’ve entered a vicious circle, isn’t it?

source: Anglia Ruskin University via CNET



1. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

I used to be a 'say no to cellphones' type of lad... Trust me, I was...!!! You can read my history with cellphones in this article (If you've some time to kill, of course): But the thing is, cellphones do a LOT more good than bad... And besides, most of the negativities associated with smartphones are basically our very own faults... The point is to NOT get ADDICTED, which may be hard for some, but it's entirely doable... When I feel like I'm spending too much time drinking, watching TV, Youtube videos or surfing the internet; I throw my phone on the couch, grab my bike's keys and go out for a ride on my old yet 'explosive' Yamaha RD350 and explore the twisties...!!! On my way home, I stop by at a biker club (Nope, it's VERY friendly), have some chat with friends, discuss our marriages, relations, celebrity crushes (Yeah, I'm old but not THAT old...!!!) and of course, motorcycles...!!! You know, just disconnect from the virtual world and see and meet REAL people, to summarize... When I come back home and get off my bike, my S6 feels like a worthless childish toy for a few moments because of all that riding adrenaline running in my veins...!!! Then I grab an icy can of beer and then... Well, the cycle continues...! Back to Youtube, Motorcycle Daily and of course, my beloved PhoneArena... Sad! G'Day!

5. PeterK.

Posts: 314; Member since: Nov 13, 2013

Living the life! Keep on rockin'.

2. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

No need for science to prove this. Just walk on the streets and if you're in a hurry, you'll find that most of the people that will hinder or block you are turtles looking at their phones.

3. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

I am capable of texting and walking without any compromise whatsoever, because I place my handset at half of arm's length, which gives me enough field of view of the ground I'm walking on.


Posts: 652; Member since: Jun 28, 2014

I've got a great idea to fix this issue! Create "loader zones" in major cities (actually similar to most of China today) - in which heavy loader trucks randomly back down problematic sections of the public sidewalk to "clean" areas of the nuisance distracted mobile device users. A separate loader crew would follow close behind with a cleanup truck to haul away any remains and wash the sidewalks. Family of the "corrected" would be notified shortly after via text message and offered a variety of services to help celebrate their legacies...

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