Texting and Walking: Worse Than You Thought?
Sedighi A, Ulman SM, Nussbaum MA. Information presentation through a head-worn display ("smart glasses") has a smaller influence on the temporal structure of gait variability during dual-task gait compared to handheld displays (paper-based system and smartphone). PLoS One. 2018 Apr 9;13(4):e0195106.
The need to complete multiple tasks concurrently is a common occurrence both daily life and in occupational activities, which can often include simultaneous cognitive and physical demands. As one example, there is increasing availability of head-worn display technologies that can be employed when a user is mobile (e.g., while walking). This new method of information presentation may, however, introduce risks of adverse outcomes such as a decrement to gait performance. The goal of this study was thus to quantify the effects of a head-worn display (i.e., smart glasses) on motor variability during gait and to compare these effects with those of other common information displays (i.e., smartphone and paper-based system). Twenty participants completed four walking conditions, as a single task and in three dual-task conditions (three information displays). In the dual-task conditions, the information display was used to present several cognitive tasks. Three different measures were used to quantify variability in gait parameters for each walking condition (using the cycle-to-cycle standard deviation, sample entropy, and the "goal-equivalent manifold" approach). Our results indicated that participants used less adaptable gait strategies in dual-task walking using the paper-based system and smartphone conditions compared with single-task walking. Gait performance, however, was less affected during dual-task walking with the smart glasses. We conclude that the risk of an adverse gait event (e.g., a fall) in head-down walking conditions (i.e., the paper-based system and smartphone conditions) were higher than in single-task walking, and that head-worn displays might help reduce the risk of such events during dual-task gait conditions.