Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eye tracking history by Wikipedia

Eye tracking history by Wikipedia
In the 1800s, studies of eye movements were made using direct observations.
In 1879 in Paris, Louis Émile Javal observed that reading does not involve a smooth sweeping of the eyes along the text, as previously assumed, but a series of short stops (called fixations) and quick saccades.[1] This observation raised important questions about reading, which were explored during the 1900s: On which words do the eyes stop? For how long? When does it regress back to already seen words?

An example of fixations and saccades over text. This is the typical pattern of eye movements during reading. The eyes never move smoothly over still text.
Edmund Huey[2] built an early eye tracker, using a sort of contact lens with a hole for the pupil. The lens was connected to an aluminum pointer that moved in response to the movements of the eye. Huey studied and quantified regressions (only a small proportion of saccades are regressions), and show that some words in a sentence are not fixated.
The first non-intrusive eye trackers were built by Guy Thomas Buswell in Chicago, using beams of light that were reflected on the eye and then recording them on film. Buswell made systematic studies into reading[3] and picture viewing[4].
In the 1950s, Alfred L. Yarbus[5] did important eye tracking research and his 1967 book is one of the most quoted eye tracking publications ever. For example he showed the task given to a subject has a very large influence on the subject's eye movements. He also wrote about the relation between fixations and interest:
"All the records (…) show conclusively that the character of the eye movements is either completely independent of or only very slightly dependent on the material of the picture and how it was made, provided that it is flat or nearly flat." [6] The cyclical pattern in the examination of pictures "is dependent not only on what is shown on the picture, but also on the problem facing the observer and the information that he hopes to gain from the picture." [7]

This study by Yarbus (1967) is often referred to as evidence on how the task given to a person influences his or her eye movements.
"Records of eye movements show that the observer's attention is usually held only by certain elements of the picture. (…) Eye movements reflect the human thought processes; so the observer's thought may be followed to some extent from records of eye movements (the thought accompanying the examination of the particular object). It is easy to determine from these records which elements attract the observer's eye (and, consequently, his thought), in what order, and how often." [8]
"The observer's attention is frequently drawn to elements which do not give important information but which, in his opinion, may do so. Often an observer will focus his attention on elements that are unusual in the particular circumstances, unfamiliar, incomprehensible, and so on." [9]
"(…) when changing its points of fixation, the observer's eye repeatedly returns to the same elements of the picture. Additional time spent on perception is not used to examine the secondary elements, but to reexamine the most important elements." [10]

This study by Hunziker (1970)[11]on eye tracking in problem solving used simple 8 mm film to track eye movements by filming the subject through a glass plate on which the visual problem was displayed. To view a slow motion movie of the eye tracking in problem solving click: http://www.learning-systems.ch/multimedia/eye%20movements%20problem%20solving.swf for details of the study: http://www.learning-systems.ch/multimedia/forsch1e.htm
In the 1970s, eye tracking research expanded rapidly, particularly reading research. A good overview of the research in this period is given by Rayner.[12].
In 1980, Just and Carpenter [13] formulated the influential Strong eye-mind Hypothesis, the hypothesis that "there is no appreciable lag between what is fixated and what is processed". If this hypothesis is correct, then when a subject looks at a word or object, he or she also thinks about (process cognitively), and for exactly as long as the recorded fixation. The hypothesis is too often today taken for granted by beginning eye tracker researchers.
During the 1980s, the eye-mind hypothesis was often questioned in light of covert attention,[14] [15] the attention to something that one is not looking at, which people often do. If covert attention is common during eye tracking recordings, the resulting scan path and fixation patterns would often show not where our attention has been, but only where the eye has been looking, and so eye tracking would not indicate cognitive processing.
According to Hoffman, [16] current consensus is that visual attention is always slightly (100 to 250 ms) ahead of the eye. But as soon as attention moves to a new position, the eyes will want to follow.[17]

We still cannot infer specific cognitive processes directly from a fixation on a particular object in a scene.[18] For instance, a fixation on a face in a picture may indicate recognition, liking, dislike, puzzlement etc. Therefore eye tracking is often coupled with other methodologies, such as introspective verbal protocols.

1 comment:

  1. I find this article very useful as it gave me a handful of information about eye tracking tool. Its really a very promising option to monitor the performance of a website. Thanks for sharing.
    eyetracking web usability