Eye-tracking: the Good, the Bad, and the Uncertain

In a well-written and fascinating article, Poole and Ball summarize how eye-tracking technology works and how it is/can be applied in human-computer interaction. They broadly outline the technology behind eye-tracking devices, as well as the psychological interpretation of various eye movements.

Reading this piece, two key thoughts occurred to me. First, the psychology of eye-movement ventures eerily close to mindreading in the loosest sense. Or at least scientists and psychologists are attempting to interpret users’ thoughts on a minute and precise level. The accuracy of interpretation is currently debatable, but this appears to be a field of science that would open an enormous landscape of technological applications pertaining to how we see the world. Of course this is both positive and negative. On the positive side, the authors here mention the use of eye tracking as a way to train autistic children to maintain eye contact during communication. However, on a more cynical level, once distributed commercially, how will people use the technology as a way to exploit us?

My second thought relates to this last point. Reading this article in the context of understanding GIS, I wonder how eye tracking might be applied geographically. The simplest argument, as I see it, would be in decision support in planning, helping planners and designers situate objects in space to best capture the attention of their target. However, I believe a much more likely and, perhaps controversial, application would be in advertising. Tracking a user’s eye movements on a computer screen, for instance, could be a gigantic boon to advertisers looking to attract users’ attention.

- JMonterey

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