To demonstrate the crucial moments of blindness drivers experience when glancing at their smartphone, Gemba’s experiment showed how even elite footballers fail to complete a seemingly simple skills task when a ball passes through a ‘black hole’ in perception.
In late 2022, Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) tasked sports and entertainment agency Gemba with finding a way to leverage their ongoing brand partnership with Melbourne Victory FC and build upon the commission’s existing road safety campaign – ‘If you’re on your phone, you’re driving blind’.
Using two of the club’s top players Chris Ikonomidis and George Timotheou, Gemba created a world-first experiment, The Tunnel Vision Experiment. The test saw each of the footballers attempt what (at first glance, anyway) appeared to be an easy task – all they had to do was pass a ball through a custom-built tunnel to one another.
The catch, however, was the entire interior of the tunnel and the ball itself was painted in Black 3.0, a substance that absorbs 99% of light, rendering any object or surface absent of form, structure, or depth. This meant that during those moments when the ball traversed the tunnel, it briefly disappeared. The exterior facade of the tunnel structure resembled a giant smartphone screen to remind people that if they’re on their phone while behind the wheel, they’re distracted and blind to the task at hand.
“The idea behind our experiment arose out of the insight that lots of us develop this false confidence in our driving ability. If we see a ‘clear road’ ahead, assume — wrongly — that we’re also clear to quickly check our phone,” Gemba’s Creative Director John Weir said. “In the same way, surely an elite footballer would be able to accurately assess the trajectory of an oncoming ball if it disappeared for a few milliseconds. It turns out they couldn’t. And this experiment showed that if you’re distracted by your phone in those few precious moments, you’re driving blind.”
TAC’s Head of Road Safety, Samantha Cockfield, said, “The experiment was very interesting. Aside from it being a bit of fun seeing the players disorientated by the unnaturally dark tunnel, it also brought a very serious road safety message to life. The reality is, if we’re behind the wheel and we glance at our phone, then we’re driving blind in what can be crucial life-or-death moments. To put it in football-related terms, at 50kmph, a two-second glance at your phone means you’re travelling blind for 28 metres, that’s a quarter of the length of AAIMI Park”.
Gemba created a series of films to feature in stadium at AAMI Park and social and digital channels.