Normally, this would have been at the most a 2 paragraph answer, but little did I know eye tracking. The following is from wikipedia:
Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze (“where we are looking”) or the motion of an eye relative to the head. An eye tracker is a device for measuring eye positions and eye movement. Eye trackers are used in research on the visual system, in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design. There are a number of methods for measuring eye movement. The most popular variant uses video images from which the eye position is extracted. Other methods use search coils or are based on the electrooculogram. (Wikipedia)
- Eye Tracking was first studied in 1879 in Paris
- Edmund Huey 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 movement of the eye
- 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 and picture viewing
- In the 1950s, Alfred L. Yarbus did important eye tracking research and his 1967 book is very highly quoted. He showed the task given to a subject has a very large influence on the subject’s eye movement. He also wrote about the relation between fixations and interest:
In recent years, the increased sophistication and accessibility of eye tracking technologies have generated a great deal of interest in the commercial sector. Applications include web usability, advertising, sponsorship, package design and automotive engineering. In general, commercial eye tracking studies function by presenting a target stimulus to a sample of consumers while an eye tracker is used to record the activity of the eye. Examples of target stimuli may include websites, television programs, sporting events, films, commercials, magazines, newspapers, packages, shelf Displays, consumer systems (ATMs, checkout systems, kiosks), and software. The resulting data can be statistically analyzed and graphically rendered to provide evidence of specific visual patterns. By examining fixations, saccades, pupil dilation, blinks and a variety of other behaviors researchers can determine a great deal about the effectiveness of a given medium or product. While some companies complete this type of research internally, there are many private companies that offer eye tracking services and analysis.
The most prominent field of commercial eye tracking research is web usability. While traditional usability techniques are often quite powerful in providing information on clicking and scrolling patterns, eye tracking offers the ability to analyze user interaction between the clicks. This provides valuable insight into which features are the most eye-catching, which features cause confusion and which ones are ignored altogether. Specifically, eye tracking can be used to assess search efficiency, branding, online advertisements, navigation usability, overall design and many other site components. Analyses may target a prototype or competitor site in addition to the main client site.
Eye tracking is commonly used in a variety of different advertising media. Commercials, print ads, online ads and sponsored programs are all conducive to analysis with current eye tracking technology. Analyses focus on visibility of a target product or logo in the context of a magazine, newspaper, website, or televised event. This allows researchers to assess in great detail how often a sample of consumers fixates on the target logo, product or ad. In this way, an advertiser can quantify the success of a given campaign in terms of actual visual attention.
Eye tracking provides package designers with the opportunity to examine the visual behavior of a consumer while interacting with a target package. This may be used to analyze distinctiveness, attractiveness and the tendency of the package to be chosen for purchase. Eye tracking is often utilized while the target product is in the prototype stage. Prototypes are tested against each other and competitors to examine which specific elements are associated with high visibility and appeal.
One of the most promising applications of eye tracking research is in the field of automotive design. Research is currently underway to integrate eye tracking cameras into automobiles. The goal of this endeavor is to provide the vehicle with the capacity to assess in real-time the visual behavior of the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsiness is the primary causal factor in 100,000 police-reported accidents per year. Another NHTSA study suggests that 80% of collisions occur within three seconds of a distraction. By equipping automobiles with the ability to monitor drowsiness, inattention, and cognitive engagement driving safety could be dramatically enhanced. Lexus claims to have equipped its LS 460 with the first driver monitor system in 2006, providing a warning if the driver takes his or her eye off the road.
Since 2005, eye tracking is used in communication systems for disabled persons: allowing the user to speak, send e-mail, browse the Internet and perform other such activities, using only their eyes. Eye control works even when the user has involuntary movement as a result of Cerebral palsy or other disabilities, and for those who have glasses or other physical interference which would limit the effectiveness of older eye control systems.
Eye tracking has also seen minute use in autofocus still camera equipment, where users can focus on a subject simply by looking at it through the viewfinder.