In everyday electronic devices, we have seen speech recognition, touch control, and motion detection all integrated together. In the recent years, another key technology that has come into existence in which by looking into the eyes of the user and analyzing their attention, engagement, and interest, as people would certainly do when interacting with each other. This is possible through eye tracking technology in which it is the process of measuring either the point of gaze where one is looking or the motion of an eye towards the point of contact.
Based on the optical tracking of corneal reflections, eye tracking technology allows to record the eye position and its movement, thus analyzing the eye movements and gaze positions in both 2D and 3D environment. It helps to examine the human processing of visual information for diagnostic and interactive applications.
In recent years, eye tracking technology has been experiencing rapid development with improvement in the stability, accuracy, and sampling rates. The acquisition of eye tracking startups by large companies and the rollout of software and several devices that support eye tracking is also on the rise. Recently, VR headset firms invested a large amount in eye tracking technology to push it further and create an immersive experience. Facebook and Google have acquired eye tracking startups, Eye Tribe and Eyefluence respectively, and are expected to implement the technology in their future applications. A kick starter-funded project “Fove” is the first VR (virtual reality) headset to have embedded eye-tracking. Investing and funding in new startups and acquisition of companies boosts the demand for eye tracking technology.
Oscar Werner, Vice President of the Tobii Tech mentions two major benefits of the sensors involved in the eye tracking technology. He says, “First, it makes a device aware of what the user is interested in at any given point in time. And second, it provides an additional way to interact with content, without taking anything else away. That means it increases the communication bandwidth between the user and the device.”
One of the most widely-used current applications for eye tracking technology is to determine how users generally interact with the Internet and webpages. A better understanding of this can help firms and brands in maximizing their impact on a user, and to make their experience as seamless as possible.
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There’s a future scope that eye tracking will be a standard feature of a new generation of laptops, desktop monitors, and smartphones, setting the stage for a huge reassessment of the way how the devices communicate with us or we communicate with them. Mobile phones, such as iPhone X or the Xiaomi Mi8, and laptops with user-facing depth-sensing cameras can be upgraded to run 3D eye tracking without the need for an additional eye tracking device. The depth sensing camera is then enabled to detect screen attention towards parts of the screen, as well as allow the user to navigate the device partly with their eyes. For gaming laptops, 3D gaze or eye tracking can be used to intensify the gaming experience when interacting with avatars or dimming out info menus that are out of focus to declutter the screen. In addition to these, there are some other applications of eye tracking by 3D technology in the near future.
Generally, driver monitoring is considered to be the primary safety while driving vehicles. However the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) suggests that by using the eye tracking technology, the assessment will evolve around how accurately and reliably the driving status of the driver is monitored. The program will come into the application by 2020. Therefore, through 3D eye tracking technology, detecting the driver’s attention to monitor and allow coordinated deliveries in semi-autonomous cars will be easy, offering safety solution to the users.
In recent years, cars and other vehicles are also interacting with the driver, based on voice and gesture commands. Still, attention sensing has been lagging behind. 3D eye tracking helps in this regard and can not only allow the car assistant to sense the driver’s and passengers’ gaze towards parts of the in-car infotainment system such as the central console, dashboard, and mirrors, but also enable natural interactions with AR (Augmented Reality), heads-up displays, and even allow the virtual co-pilot to detect the gaze towards objects outside of the vehicle or car.
In the retail sector, by observing the attention of the customer, retailers can analyze product performance. By capturing the eye movement data, as shoppers navigate through or browse the aisles of a store, marketers can receive genuine insights and a dynamic understanding of what really attracts the consumers. Without the need for calibration, 3D eye tracking can offer shelf-attention analytics that identifies the number of views and focal points. Market research companies can then use these insights to suggest optimizations to retailers with respect to their sales approach and customer experience.
In healthcare, usage of eye tracking has become a trend in recent years. Many investigators and researchers have started using eye-tracking technology for patient safety studies. The technology is also actively utilized in specialized medical centers to create a system of communication with the patients, who have totally or partially lost their motor function, those suffering from serious lesions of the musculoskeletal system, or those having speech disorders. For such patients, both psychological and social rehabilitation is important. For this reason, communication for them has an important role.
The use of eye tracking in the simulated setting can help improve our understanding of what sources of information users are and are not using as they deliver routine processes. In particular, data derived from eye tracking can be used to evaluate common, error-prone processes. Information on the eye behavior of experts can lead to the development of training protocols to guide the education of students and novice practitioners. Eye tracking technology has the capability likely to transform the way in which a lot of devices will be used in the near future.
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