Eye tracking is quickly becoming cheaper, more compact, and incredibly accurate. In fact, there has been enough advancement of the technology in recent years that it is now being included in some smartphones. By monitoring where people look while using their devices, researchers and developers may be able to create a phone that responds to a simple glance or gaze.
Researchers from several universities around the world, including MIT, the University of Georgia, and Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Informatics are working on software that will hopefully be able to identify where a person is focusing their eyes with an accuracy of about a centimeter.
That may sound impressive, and it is, but it’s not nearly accurate enough to be functional in the modern tech environment. The amount of information displayed in a single centimeter of screen space on a mobile phone leaves quite a lot of ambiguity in regards to where the user is looking. Turning this into useful data will be difficult until a more accurate means of eye tracking can be developed within the confines of a pocket sized personal computer.
But that kind of progress seems inevitable to some. Aditya Khosla, a graduate student at MIT, believes the system’s accuracy will improve as they collect more data. If he’s right, eye tracking will likely become much more widespread and useful. Historically the technology has had its limitations.
It’s expensive, and the hardware required was cumbersome, meaning that test subjects had to come into the lab in order for researchers to collect data. But now, as the tech shrinks small enough to fit into phones and tablets, the lab is coming to the users. The amount of data this will allow researchers to collect will grow exponentially, and breakthroughs will seem to happen more and more often.
This will also help solve another related problem that hinders research of all kinds, which is that test subjects often act differently in the test facility than they would normally act in a more comfortable environment. People behave differently when they know they are being watched. By letting them get comfortable enough and forget about the ongoing research, they slip back into their regular habits, allowing the teams to collect invaluable data about user behavior and eye movement statistics.