Tracking attention

Nutshell Version: DFKEye is a completely software-based system that tests visual focus by blurring portions of the screen.  It’s a cheaper alternative to eye tracking which can actually answer different questions, such as whether users are actively engaged or whether they’re just staring into space.

In the course of presenting various research methods to clients and to peers, I have found that nothing gets people excited quite like eye tracking.  Seeing a little pink dot move wherever you’re looking borders on supernatural the first time you experience it.

Once people get over their wonder, however, they usually start looking for ways to take this technology home with them.  Unfortunately, many of the better systems are still prohibitively expensive, which leaves people brainstorming for alternatives.  Mapping clicks or cursor movement are sometimes cited as possibilities, and although these techniques can be informative, researcher Lynne Cooke found that cursor movement shows only 69% agreement with eye movement.

Clearly, cursor movement doesn’t get us all the way there.  But this doesn’t mean we need to abandon the notion of inexpensive software-based eye tracking altogether.