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Eye Tracking Technology Today

human eye

What are people looking at? What grabs people’s attention? Does our brand stand out next to others? These are just a few of the questions Eye-tracking technology seeks to answer. With the advancement of this technology, new forms of analytics are no longer restricted to research institutions but are now accessible to a wider market.

Applications of this technology include market research, medical research, and Usability & UI research. The technology is used in diagnosing diseases, understanding human psychology and behavior, and product analysis.

Going forward, this blog will look at what Eye Tracking is, the different types, and a few industry use cases that demonstrate the value the technology provides.

What is Eye-Tracking?

In its simplest terms, the technology records and tracks a user’s pupils, the center of their eye, and determines a user’s focus point using a variety of calculations including, angle, reflection, distance, and, in some cases, pupil size.

Eye-tracking typically works by continuously measuring the distance between the pupil center and the reflection of the cornea – the distance changes depending on the angle of the eye. An infrared light, invisible to the human eye, creates this reflection while cameras record and track the movements.

Types of eye-tracking

There are three main types of eye-tracking technologies in use today; screen-based devices, glasses/headset-based devices, and Virtual Reality (VR) based devices.

Screen-based eye-tracking

Screen-based eye tracking uses a mounted webcam combined with software to track what the user is looking at. This camera can be mounted above or below the reading medium. While mostly used in conjunction with a computer screen, as long as the webcam is mounted properly and the user is close enough, you can use screen-based eye tracking on other mediums like paper.

When using this method, the user can move a bit but must remain in the eye-trackers range, known as the headbox. The size of this headbox varies across software but generally is large enough for the user to feel unrestricted.

children using tablets and smartphone to look at augmented reality planets
An unobtrusive, naturalistic screen-based (remote) eye tracking device – Tobii Pro X2-30

Screen-based methods are most often used in evaluating web pages, designs, and other marketing materials using heat maps, fixation, and duration metrics to evaluate attention and impact.

Glasses & Headset-based eye-tracking

man putting a hololens 2

Glasses and Headset based eye-tracking devices use cameras that are mounted close to the user’s eyes. The camera is mounted to a pair of eyeglasses or to a headset-based device. Using these devices allows the user total freedom of movement, untethered to any one location.

Glasses and Headset based technology if most often used when respondents need to work with multiple mediums (i.e screens, paper, real-world environments) or when movement is required such as in a lab or supermarket setting.

The metrics this version of the technology records is not much different from its counterpart devices, but it does utilize more complex versions of Heat maps, fixation sequences, and customer decision-making behavior in order to better understand the customer journey.

VR headset-based eye-tracking

While VR headset eye-tracking could technically fall under the category described above, the unique capability to create entire environments, simulations, and visual stimuli put VR into its own category. VR headset methods don’t employ different methods from its counterpart devices but does allow testers the flexibility to simulate things that would not be feasible in the real world. VR Headset methods are typically used for complex studies that require controlled environments and stimuli. These environments and stimuli can be easily switched out for others or repeated for continued testing. 

Patient in virtual reality goggles

VR Headset eye tracking is not quite mainstream yet as most work being done in the industry is by small players for the HTC Vive VR Headset. As bigger players such as Facebook and Google continue to invest in their VR devices, the popularity of eye-tracking in the VR medium may increase substantially.

Different uses of eye-tracking across industry

There are many different uses for eye tracking technology that span across most industries. The most popular uses of this technology are in the fields of market research, Usability/UI testing, and medical research.

Medical Research

Medical researchers are finding new uses for eye-tracking technology every day. The data researchers now have access to has uncovered incredible new ways of diagnosing diseases such as ADHD, Autism, OCD, Schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s/Alzheimer’s. Additionally, this technology along with other biosensors have been used to notify truck drivers when they are showing signs of drowsiness when driving.

This type of use case often uses other bio-sensory technology in conjunction with eye-tracking in order to arrive at health advice and diagnoses. Medical researchers are often looking at fixation sequences, pupil size, focus point, and other attention-based metrics to better understand what is happening in the human brain.

Usability and UI Research

heatmap of webpage

If you have ever visited a website to find information on a product and were frustrated at how complicated it was to find what you were looking for, it’s likely you end up going to a competitor’s site to buy the product. This type of frustration is common and is due to poor design choices that obscure what your customers are most interested in. 

Eye-tracking is a great way to figure out what your users are looking at and how to best structure your pages so that the most important information to the customer is easily accessible. Most often, heat maps and fixation gazes are utilized to better understand how your current page layout affects the information a customer is able to find about their product or service of interest.

Market Research

Marketing is a constant battle for a customer’s attention. In today’s market environment, every company, both big and small, is a marketer. In such a competitive landscape, understanding how to stand out and grab your customer’s attention can make or break profits. Eye-tracking introduces a whole new way of understanding human behavior, from learning what grabs our attention, to what makes us choose one product over another.

Often, you’ll see the results of market research eye-tracking studies in the layouts of stores, brand color choices, and what information to include or not on labels.

Market Researchers use a wide variety of metrics collected from eye-tracking software to inform their decisions. Metrics include fixations, gaze points, heat maps, areas of interest, time to fixations, time spent, ratios, fixation sequences, and more.

Take Away

Eye-tracking technology is well-known as a concept, but most think of it as a small part of today’s market. While that may still be true, eye tracking has slowly come into its own as an analytic technology known for its high return on investment. While many organizations may not have a use or the resources for such a powerful analytic tool, the use of eye-tracking technology can help your organization stay one step ahead of its competitors.

About SphereGen

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SphereGen is a unique solutions provider that specializes in cloud-based applications, Intelligent Automation, and Extended Reality (AR/VR/MR). We offer full-stack custom application development to help customers employ innovative technology to solve business problems.

Learn more about what we do in XR: https://www.spheregen.com/extended-reality

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