Computer scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island have developed a program that uses a computers webcam to determine where on the screen the user is looking.
The program, WebGazer.js, monitors the position of the users’ eyes, and extrapolates the angle of their gaze, and where that intersects with the display. It was designed in a way that makes it easily added into any website, and requires only a brief and simple installation in the users’ web browser.
For those concerned about their personal security and privacy, the software cannot be installed without user permission, and no video is recorded or shared at all. The only data that is shared is the location on the page at which the user is focusing, and for how long.
Knowing where a user is looking when using any given website is very valuable information for it’s developers. It helps them know which areas are getting the most attention, and which areas are missed or unused. This can help them make the website more efficient and intuitive.
According to Alexandra Papoutsaki, the Brown University graduate student and lead software developer on the project, “We see this as a democratization of eye-tracking. Anyone can add WebGazer to their site and get a much richer set of analytics compared to just tracking clicks or cursor movements.”
The biggest benefit of this app is how it compares to the standard method of achieving the same results.
Typical eye tracking machines cost tens of thousands of pounds, and can be rather large. By eliminating those two barriers, WebGazer.js can make user metrics available to much smaller business and websites that previously would not have had access to this type of advantageous data.
“We’re using the webcams that are already integrated in users’ computers, which eliminates the cost factor,” Papoutsaki said. “;And it’s more naturalistic in the sense that we observe people in the real environment instead of in a lab setting.”