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Walking the Line: Wpi Students Develop App as Sobriety Test


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A Worcester Polytechnic Institute dons goggles to assess the AlcoGait app.

Researchers at Massachusetts' Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing a smartphone app that will tell them when they have had too much to drink to drive safely, based on how they walk.

Credit: Worcester Telegram (MA)

A smartphone application in development at Massachusetts' Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) tells users when they have had too much alcohol by monitoring changes in the way they walk.

AlcoGait can predict a person's blood alcohol content with 90% accuracy. The app analyzes the user's gait for abnormalities and sends an alert when the person has surpassed the legal limit and should not drive.

WPI professor Emmanuel Agu conceived of the idea to adapt the "walk the line" field sobriety test police use when evaluating suspected drunken drivers. To use AlcoGait, a sober user first walks normally for 30 seconds, letting the app record and analyze the motion data of the user's unimpaired gait. When going out for drinks, the user then turns on the app to run in the background and continuously gauge the person's movements.

Agu says the app could be integrated with a car ignition kill switch or linked to a ride-sharing service that can automatically offer the impaired user a ride home.

In addition to AlcoGait, Agu and his team have developed several smartphone-based healthcare apps, including weight-loss apps, an app to help people with alcohol dependence, and an app to support recovering heroin addicts.

From Worcester Telegram (MA)
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