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Why The Eyes Are So Important For Heavy Rain…. And User Experience Research March 2, 2010

Posted by Jon Ward in Marketing, Technology, Uncategorized.
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As the companies resident gaming geek I pretty much lost all of last weekend playing Heavy Rain on the Playstation 3 and being blown away by the virtual world, the environmental effects and some of the character details. Ok, if anyone has played the game then yes, sometimes the hands and fingers are a bit awkward, the teeth and mouth animations plus lip sync could be better and characters are a little stiff when they walk…. but in a game that has about 10 different endings, 50+ chapters and countless hours of animation and exploration this can be excused – but one thing that jumped out at me was the eye modelling.

In between chapters there is displayed a close up view of the characters face that you are about to take control of – and the level of detail on the face, skin, muscle movement and eyes are fantastic – as the screenshots below hopefully illustrate in some small way.

So what has all this got to do with eye tracking I hear you ask? Well bear with me… throughout the game as the story twists and turns the CGI characters have to sell you the story – these lifeless avatars have to convey emotion, passion, fear, and a hundred other emotions and in no small part do they tell the story with their eyes. And in this aspect Heavy Rain truly excels. What becomes apparent is that the eyes give away so much about what we are thinking, how we feel and more – it happens in the game, and it happens when we capture eye tracking data in user testing.

Long standing studies show that our eye movements can indicate when we are recalling images or memories, when we are lying and so on – when we are testing on a user site they can give away elements of confusion, engagement and emotional interaction. Reports indicate that as much as 60% of our actions are subconscious, which is why tracking eye movements give us access to hidden insights and why eye tracking is a powerful tool when used correctly. As technology and measures develop eye tracking and biometric measures will be allied to neuroscience and then we will be unlocking a massive part of the user experience, both the visible elements and those that are hidden…. and that is surely an exciting prospect.

Until then… I have about 9 more endings to uncover!

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