Intel Labs measures cognitive workload of distracted drivers, we go eyes-on with the demo (video)

Many studies have shown that any kind of distracted driving is a bad thing, but Intel wanted to take a closer look at our driving behavior to determine if we could avoid it in the first place. Paul Crawford, a senior research scientist in Intel's Interaction and Experience Research Lab, sought to do just that in a comprehensive investigation that seeks to understand not just where drivers are looking, but how they're thinking. By doing this, Intel hopes to alert the driver of any mental warning signs before he or she even gets behind the wheel.

At a recent Research @ Intel event in San Francisco, Crawford used a racing car gaming set-up to demonstrate both visual and mental diversions with eye-tracking software and a functional near-infrared spectrometer headband. The latter is used to gauge the metabolic activity and cognitive workload of the brain under different driving conditions, which in this case fluctuated between a peaceful drive and a high-speed chase. Crawford also threw in a few questions and mathematical problems at the test subject to complicate matters. As you might expect, the brain was highly active during the more challenging scenarios and less so in the other. Crawford told us he hopes that the findings will point to ways we can optimize our environmental conditions and taskloads so that we can perform better, not just when driving but in everyday tasks as well. To see the demo in action and hear Crawford's words for yourself, check out the video after the break.

Michael Gorman contributed to this report.