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Where Is The Value From Eyetracking August 9, 2016

Posted by Jon Ward in eye tracking, Glasses, Market Research, Marketing, Shopper Research, Technology, Tobii, Usability & UX.
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Of the past decade we have seen eyetracking move out of the research labs and academic institutes and begin to hit mainstream uses in markets such as gaming and control of operating systems, but if we look holisitically over every possible use and application for this amazing technology one question crops up quite regularly – “what can’t you eyetrack?”

Potentially this could prompt a simple answer and we list some obvious things and limitations of eyetracking as a technology – but I think the bigger question is “will eyetracking add value to what I am doing?” as it isn’t always obvious where the return on investment is from the data that eyetracking gives you.

There are actually very few situations where you can’t eyetrack people (or indeed some species of animal!) – for example recently Tobii equipment was used to eyetrack a F1 driver (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjkUUMZnTnU) where the latest technology readily mounted inside the very snug and close-fitting helmet of Nico Hulkenberg. Staying with a sports theme Zoe Wimshurst from Southampton Solent University used the Tobii Glasses on a gymnast who performed a number of backflips while the equipment not only stayed in place, but also remained accurate thanks to Tobii’s 4 camera binocular platform (https://twitter.com/ZoeWimshurst/status/760472938499936256). And while we are name dropping I eyetracked Cristiano Ronaldo some years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NcUkvIX6no) with a previous generation platform. Sports is one thing, but what about something different… how about primate research, yup – we can tick the box there as well! For example some trials we did with Edinburgh Zoo (http://www.living-links.org/2012/11/), and the typical uses of consumer shopper and online research, psychology, linguistics and infant research are all areas where eyetracking is heavily involved, and this is of course now developing into the virtual world, mounting systems into VR and AR units for the next generation of these fields… not to mention interaction within gaming – both user testing and for control applications (http://www.tobii.com/xperience/apps/the-division/).

 

Eye tracking at Edinburgh Zoo

 

So you might say “great PR but what does that give us apart from a YouTube video” – well lets look at some examples, starting with F1 – if by watching the eye movements and point of gaze of a F1 driver we can shave 0.1 seconds per lap from a 58 lap race, we gain 6 seconds. In the Australian GP 7 drivers (from the 16 that finished) could have gained a position with this advantage, one driver could have jumped 4 places – gaining 7 points in the drivers championship in the process. For a footballer, releasing the ball 0.25 second earlier because you have the ability to read the field more efficiently visual performance training could be the difference between beating the offside trap and scoring or dropping points in a multi-billion pound race to the title. In elite performance the smallest of margins can mean winning or losing, and in today’s environment that could mean the difference between fame and fortune, or fading into obscurity.

 

F1 Eye Tracking

 

If we look at medical or clinical uses, being able to identify things like autism at an earlier stage (using non-verbal responses through measuring eye movements) allows parents and clinicians to adapt and plan a child’s education to minimise the impact on their development and lets the family be more prepared moving forward. Building up databases of typical and non-typical developing children from all walks of life both in and out of the lab allows milestones to be measured, new learning or rehabilitation techniques to be developed. Being able to extract information without the requirement for self reporting or verbal communication breaks down barriers that would otherwise mean that diagnosis may not be available for weeks, months or even years later otherwise. Using the latest techniques for training and both real and virtual presentation of scenarios means that we can now train healthcare professionals, surgeons and patients in situations that could be life threatening without the risk, and by understanding totally how they interact and engage gives us insights never before available.

 

Picture1

 

When looking at process management, health and safety or manufacture there are always people in a workplace that are ‘naturals’ at what they do, they have either adapted to their task very comfortable and excelled, or more likely through repetition and learning have become expert. Using eyetracking we can observe how these people operate, understand if and how they anticipate next steps, how they scan and search for elements or their situational awareness. Next we bring on the novice or the person to improve, observe them and compare them to our experts, guiding their interactions with a proven benchmark. An accident at work can be costly both in financial and possibly human terms, so use a simulator, VR environment or test area and monitor people’s actions and movements – and pre-empt possible bad situations. Does that fork lift driver check either side of the load often enough? How is that member of the QA team better at spotting defects in products – is their search strategy different? What makes that soldier better at finding ground disturbance in the field and locating IED’s? How can we be sure a mechanic checks every inch of an engine during a service and a vehicle is safe to use?

 

See how a mechanic checks an engine

 

Let’s think about consumer research – a mainstay of eyetracking and an ever growing market place. With the adoption of mobile devices on-screen real estate is smaller, we consume information quicker and we need to be more efficient at being noticed, getting our message across and of course helping the customer with their journey. A 1% increase in click-throughs, sign up or user experience could mean huge increases in a companies KPI’s but often selling in ideas and changes to a stakeholder can be challenging. Eyetracking provide a very visual way to demonstrate why customers aren’t (or indeed are!) doing what was expected on a website, image or menu system. Jumping into the retail space we are bombarded with products, signage, offers, POS, noise, colour and a whole lot more every time we walk through a shop entrance, or a mall, or a petrol forecourt – consumers self reporting their actions always has its limitations and this is even more evident in such a busy space as a retail outlet. Our eyes are digesting heaps of information, our brain is processing and discarding things that aren’t pertinent to the task and consumers simply can’t remember, never mind verbalise, all of this at the rate it is going. Unlock the subconscious by measuring the bodies leading input device – the visual system. Again small performance gains at the checkout in one store quickly multiply to large increases across a brand, retailer or globally. What distracts the shopper or draws their attention away from where we want them to look? What attracts them to our competitors? What elements do they use to navigate, make a decision or determine quality? Can people navigate around the virtual store before we invest in deploying the new layout?

 

Heat map in a virtual store

 

Think about your project, objective or study – is the interaction with the stimulus, product, environment or other people of interest? Do you want to know what and when they use visual information at any stage in the trial to inform the decision-making process? Do you want to understand why someone is better at a task than someone else? Do you want a very visible way of demonstrating a participants behaviour to a stakeholder? If the answer to any of these questions (or many more similar to these) is yes, then there is value in eyetracking for you.

Speak to us about methodologies for your study, the different types of equipment on hand and how we can help you get the insights you need.

 

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