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WPI Professor, Students Build New Anti-Drunk Driving App

WORCESTER (CBS) — It’s the season for holiday cheer, but what if you overdo it?  A local professor and his students are working on an innovative warning system for just that scenario. They hope it will save lives by keeping people off the road when they’ve had too much to drink.

Drunk driving is a tragedy for everyone involved, taking and ruining lives.  So what if there was an app that let you know when you reach the danger zone?

AlcoGait is designed to tell you when you've had too much to drink. (WBZ-TV)

AlcoGait is designed to tell you when you’ve had too much to drink. (WBZ-TV)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor Emmanuel Agu and his students are building that app.

“If you’re too drunk to drive it informs you so that you don’t drive,” Dr. Agu says.

It works because most smart phones have motion sensors.

“We constantly grab data from that and that basically indicates how you’re swaying,” he says.

It’s simple to set up. First you tell the app to “learn” your normal, sober way of walking by simply walking for 30 seconds or so. That’s your baseline. The WPI researchers use what they call “drunk” goggles to simulate the tipsy way people move when they’ve had too much to drink.

"Drunk goggles" helped researchers simulate drunkenness. (WBZ-TV)

“Drunk goggles” helped researchers simulate drunkenness. (WBZ-TV)

“The goggles, they’re pretty interesting. They distort your vision so you sway more. It’s harder to judge things. You might bump into things more,” says Ben Bianchi a computer science student working on the project.

The app measures the tipsy movement and estimates your blood alcohol level. It’s similar to when a police officer pulls you over and tells you to walk the line.

“It’s been shown in the literature that the amount of swaying is proportional to how much you’ve been drinking,” says Prof. Agu.

The app measures your walk to determine your level of drunkenness. (WBZ-TV)

The app measures your walk to determine your level of drunkenness. (WBZ-TV)

If the app says you’ve had too much, a warning pops up on your phone complete with a buzz, to let you know you are buzzed.

“A lot of people, when they’re over the legal limit, don’t actually realize it,” says Andrew McAfee, another student involved with the effort.

But with the AlcoGait app, they’ll know.  ”

Now they have hard data to make a decision,” says Prof. Agu

The team hopes to have the app available by the end of next year.

 

More from Lisa Hughes
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