Sixteenth-century pediatrician Thomas Phaer mused that “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” These sensory organs and their movements certainly provide a wealth of information to researchers studying the interaction of mind and body. Eye tracking has long been a key tool of physiological and psychophysiological research, and recent developments in mobile eye tracking take this valuable data resource out of the confines of the lab and into the real world.
Freed from the limitations of stationary eye tracking technology, mobile eye tracking enables researchers to study participants while they perform a wide range of immersive tasks in natural settings. These self-contained devices come in a variety of form factors including wearable glasses that provide untethered eye tracking data acquisition in real time that can be combined with other physiological data collected during live experiments.
Today’s lightweight mobile devices can record a broad spectrum of eye tracking data, including pupil size and position, gaze path, vergence angle, and areas of interest (AOI). The latter connects stimuli to eye-movement metrics, providing data on the participant’s psychophysiological response to stimuli within their field of vision. In previous blog posts and webinars, we have explored how mobile eye tracking technology gathers this data. Numerous studies have been published that demonstrate its potential in physiological and psychophysiological research. Settings and applications include user experience, sports and physical therapy, public safety and law enforcement, driving and equipment operation, and work environments from the office to the factory floor.
Mobile eye tracking technology allowed researchers at The University of Sheffield to take their experiments to the city streets for a 2020 study into how different lighting affects cyclists navigating urban environments at night. Mobile eye tracking provided data on the gaze behavior of nocturnal cyclists in parallel with skin conductance response (SCR) to better understand how obstacle detection is influenced by variations in type, location, and level of lighting. Bicycles and their riders were equipped with a BIOPAC data acquisition unit and audio stimulation units along with a BioNomadix EDA transmitter and electrodes to record the participants’ SCR. Eye tracking data, including AOI, were synchronized with SCR data and analyzed using AcqKnowledge software to determine how the riders reacted to a variety of lighting conditions. Researchers concluded that lighting plays a significant role in riders’ comfort levels at night and that improved lighting could increase urban bicycle use.
Less intrusive by design, mobile eye tracking can provide indoor experiments with a heightened degree of immersion. A study at the University of British Columbia used mobile eye tracking glasses to create a more natural environment to investigate how the immersive effects of electronic gaming machines (EGM) impact gambling addiction. The study looked at how machine design triggered psychophysiological responses in participants by assigning various AOI to EGM screens. ECG data were recorded along with respiration effort via a BIOPAC respiration effort transducer and amplifier, which were fed to a data acquisition unit and synchronized with AOI data recorded via mobile eye tracking glasses. The study was able to successfully identify several key markers for game immersion using AOI that suggest behavioral links between immersion and gambling addiction.
Possible applications for mobile eye tracking in research continue to expand with the evolution of the technology. To learn more about recent developments in mobile eye tracking, check out our latest webinar on mobile eye tracking glasses with AcqKnowledge integration.
Learn more about how to integrate mobile eye tracking into your next research project by contacting your local BIOPAC sales representative.