One of the key factors behind the record increase in pedestrian casualties across the US in recent years was “the dramatic growth in smartphone use,” according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report.
We are all guilty of walking down the street and receiving an interesting message or email from a friend or colleague, or even just surfing the web, and unwittingly losing all awareness of our surroundings in favor of our smartphones.
While some cities have turned to fining so-called “smartphone zombies” for such behavior or, like Tel Aviv, have installed LED ground-level lights at pedestrian crossings to warn texting pedestrians that they are about to cross the road, Israeli start-up Third-i has adopted a different approach.
“We know that people aren’t going to stop looking at their phones, so we started from the need to connect them to their surroundings,” Third-i CEO and co-founder Itzik Levi told The Jerusalem Post.
Founded in 2016 together with Amos Cohen, the duo have developed an additional, patented forward-facing smartphone camera, either attached through a specially-designed smartphone case or embedded directly into the top of a user’s smartphone.
Boosted by investment from Brahm Industries, Third-i’s system integrates forward-looking video with a section of the smartphone screen, enabling users to both continue using their phone for any purpose and simultaneously see ahead, while always keeping their hand in a natural position.
“Our Third-i application will allow you to capture views, create a story in one tap, share your experiences, navigate feeds and more in a natural hand position, allowing you to simultaneously do your favorite things and see ahead,” said Cohen, Third-i’s chief product officer.
The company’s ambitions are far from limited to pedestrians just being able to see ahead while answering their emails or checking their Facebook. Rather, they predict a whole range of possible applications, ranging from advanced street-level navigation to a Mobileye-style bicycle collision warning application and augmented reality gaming that can be played with both hands rather than one.
“The forward-facing camera can live together with the existing dual smartphone cameras. You can have many types of new applications with different needs that can utilize more than just two cameras,” said Levi.
Third-i, which recently showcased its technology at MWC Barcelona, the world’s largest mobile industry fair, is now looking to increasingly partner with mobile application vendors, who wish to integrate the company’s SDK (software development kit) into their applications.
The company is also looking to partner with mobile manufacturers to embed their system in smartphones, making their forward-viewing technology a part of our off-the-shelf mobile purchases.
Aiming to appear in stores in the coming year, Third-i expects to see initial success in countries well-known as early adapters of technologies, including the US, Japan, China and Korea, as well as closer to home in Israel.