The Power of Eye Contact

Technically speaking, we have been developing technology that can track every movement of our eyes since cars were first invented. But it’s only recently that this field has started to truly look like what you might see in spy movies. Devices ranging from computer software to eyeglasses now have the ability to detect and report where your eyes focus each second to determine your attention, drowsiness, consciousness, or other cognitive and emotional states. And these cool, seemingly futuristic, eye-tracking devices are already changing the way some people, live, work, and learn, especially in these three areas:

1. For people with speech and motor disabilities, such as ALS or Rett Syndrome, augmented and alternative communication, or AAC, is a method through which they can communicate with those around them. Eye-tracking technology, such as Microsoft’s just released Eye Control for Windows, has recently revolutionized these methods, allowing individuals to type out anything from emails, to comments on Facebook, to spreadsheet formulas by looking at the letters of an on-screen keyboard. At Tobii Tech, a health tech leader, portable devices are dedicated to allowing users—whether they are paralyzed or immobilized by a neural disorder—to access web apps and easily type using their eyes. Their tablet-like devices even translate typed messages to speech, paving the path for better relationships, enabling patients to work, and giving a voice to those who would otherwise never have their own.

2. Virtual Reality: Eye tracking has also become an essential tool in improving VR experiences. Eye tracking devices within VR headsets send data back to analysis software about where people are likely to focus and their responses to each visual stimuli within the VR content. Using this, researchers and developers can create elements that interact with our gaze and trigger subconscious responses, making VR feel even more like reality.

3. Our Learning Process: Eye tracking is often used by university students to assist in numerous and varied areas of research, but it is also becoming more common as a way to research how we learn. In the classroom, visual learning is essential and has become even more so as we integrate technology into teaching methods. Eye tracking can be used in this area to study how we process information and measure our cognitive responses to digital educational materials, which helps researchers better design, evaluate, and improve education and educational tools.

Tobii Tech has already equipped universities all across the U.S. with eye-tracking equipment, gathering data on individual differences in problem-solving skills and learning processes as well as social interactions between teachers and students—gauging how well educational materials work. This can all lead to more effective learning for a wider audience. With better education—and students already trained to use the technology—the future of eye-tracking technology is looking very bright indeed.

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