Personal Tech | April 12, 2021 12:41 pm

This Phone App Will Prompt You to Look Up When You’re Walking

Google's Digital Wellbeing toolkit is adding a "Heads Up" feature

One hand on a phone that is showing a "do not walk" symbol
Can a new Google app stop people from walking and staring at their phone?
Markus Winkler / Unsplash

How many times have people run into you because they’re looking at their phones? (And how many times have you run into people while looking at your phone?)

Oddly, a new phone app may help you keep your eyes on the sidewalk and looking ahead. Google’s Digital Wellbeing toolkit, which was designed to help you manage your tech time, will soon have a feature called Heads Up that will post a prompt on your phone to pay attention to your walking.

“This seems like the latest in a string of digital wellbeing tools baked into the devices we use all the time to help us stop using them all the time,” as Becca Caddy, author of Screen Time: How to Make Peace with Your Devices and Find Your Techquilibrium, told BBC.

You’ll have to manually set this up in your app. As the setup screen posits: “Watch your step with Heads Up…If you’re walking while using your phone, get a reminder to focus on what’s around you…Use with caution. Heads Up doesn’t replace paying attention.”

When 9to5Google noticed this code late last year, they suggested that you could receive one of seven messages when your phone is out during your walk, each paired with an emoji: Be careful, Look ahead, Stay focused, Look up, Stay alert, Watch out and Watch your step.

According to the XDA Developers site that first noticed the update, this is still a work in progress and only now being rolled out to users. And you’ll still need to be on an Android device; right now, the feature only seems to be available to certain Google Pixel smartphones.