iPhone 6 Eye Tracking and the FOVIO Eye Tracker

iPhone 6

Scene Camera Data Collection – Mobile / Tablet Example

Testing on a monitor, testing with a projector, testing on a laptop, a Command and Control Station, a TV… the list goes on. Where ever a person meets machine, there is a way that eye tracking can be employed. As new interfaces and devices are released, eye tracking must evolve to ensure that it can be used easily with those devices.

The latest such device was released yesterday, and that’s when mine turned up in the mail – I am of course referring to the much anticipated iPhone 6. Here at EyeTracking, we have many customers that use our EyeWorks software to test mobile apps on a variety of devices. We ourselves, run usability services (using EyeWorks or course), for a range of companies testing mobile apps. As we had an iPhone 6 in hand, we thought we should perform a quick test to ensure that all is working well between EyeWorks and the latest top end phone on the market.  

For those that have not used the EyeWorks Scene Camera Module yet, it is the most easy to use and powerful scene camera solution on the market. We will get more into this in a future blog. Just to make things more interesting, we decided to use the newest eye tracker on the market –the much talked about FOVIO system from Seeing Machines. The first production system of FOVIO only started shipping to the research community this week too, so it seemed only too fitting to use it for this test.

Setup took around about 3 minutes, and we recorded simultaneous and synchronized high-definition videos of the iPhone 6 screen and Picture-in-Picture view of the subject’s hands. There is no geometry configuration needed, just click start, calibrate four points and everything else is running.

Click the embedded clip below to view the raw unedited video from our test. We’ll be sure to post more in the near future, so be sure to check back often and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Contact our sales team if you are interested in learning more about EyeWorks or any of our other products and services.

Featured image from Unsplash.

Comparing Eye Trackers at Different Price Points

Eye tracker

If you’ve explored eye tracking as a research technology, then you’ve probably noticed the extreme variability in the cost of eye trackers. These aren’t laptops we’re talking about, where a higher-end model can mean an extra few hundred dollars. The cost of one piece of eye tracking hardware versus another can vary by tens of thousands of dollars.

Take a look at the system pictured here (which I just invented). It’s made from an old web cam, a clothespin, a laser pointer, three pencils and some scotch tape. It doesn’t work at all, but the cost is unbelievably low! All kidding aside, the point here is important to consider – What is an acceptable tradeoff between cost and quality? Is a lower-end eye tracker going to provide you with good enough data to meet your research objectives? These are crucial questions for anyone interested in equipping an eye tracking lab.

In the video embedded below, we’ve used three different eye trackers – representing three different price points – to track the eyes of a participant completing a visual following task (not simultaneously; these are three separate runs). On each clip we’ve rendered raw eye data with a 500 ms gaze trail instead of fixations to accentuate the differences in data precision between the three systems. The costs of the eye trackers shown in this video range from relatively inexpensive to very expensive. Click the video to watch.

The most notable difference is precision. All three eye trackers are in the general vicinity of the targeted yellow dot, but you’ll notice much more ‘noise’ in the data from the lower cost systems. The point-of-gaze does not move smoothly; it bounces around quite a bit, especially in the example on the far left. Does this mean that the tracker on the left isn’t right for you? Maybe. Maybe not. If you need pinpoint precision in your data, then this system probably won’t cut it. However, if you’re interested in a more general analysis of eye data, then you might be able to live with the extra noise. Whether or not you can get by with a lower cost eye tracker is heavily dependent on how you plan to use the data.

What about the Medium Cost system in the video? That precision doesn’t look so bad compared to the Higher Cost system, right? That may be true, but there is more to it than just accuracy and precision. The image below shows the left (yellow) and right (green) pupil diameter for all systems during the task shown in the video above. Those colorful pinstripes in the Lower Cost and Medium Cost systems demonstrate instability in the tracking of the pupil. Now look at the data timeline for the Higher Cost System – perfectly stable, no dropped data. In our experience the higher end systems tend to do a better job keeping track of pupil size and orientation. Again, this may or may not matter to you, depending on your research goals.

Another distinction to consider is sampling rate. The Higher Cost system that we’ve featured samples at three times the rate of the Medium Cost system and five times the rate of the Lower Cost system. Do you need all of those additional data points? Is it worth the associated hardware costs? Think about that before you make your decision.

There are many factors that drive the price of eye tracking hardware – usability, flexibility, support, compatibility with advanced modules (e.g. scene camera, multi-display, cognitive workload, etc.). In most (though not all) cases the higher end systems make use of more precise data to offer a more robust solution. And yet, that doesn’t mean we’re recommending that you break the bank to make sure that you have all of the most advanced equipment. We are simply saying this: if you want to know how much you should spend on an eye tracker, you must first consider what you’ll be asking that system to do. As in any business decision, a cost-benefit analysis is worthwhile.

Feel free to contact us with any questions about hardware, software or eye tracking technology in general.

So you want to buy an eye tracker…

Eye trackers

Eye tracking is certainly on the rise. There are more businesses, universities and government agencies using this technology now than ever before. To keep pace with demand, new eye tracking hardware systems are being released all the time. So how do you decide which one is the right one for your research? It’s not as if you can walk into Best Buy and ask the guy in the blue shirt which eye tracker you should purchase… not yet anyway.

At EyeTracking, Inc. we’ve used every type of eye tracker in just about every research environment, from the usability lab to the grocery store, from the cockpit to the operating room. After over a decade of work with dozens of eye tracking systems, we’ve learned a thing or two about choosing the tool best-suited to each of our projects. For those of you considering the purchase of an eye tracker, here are a few questions that we recommend that you ask to help you sort through the many systems available in today’s market…

Do I need a remote system or a head-mounted system?

If your research participants will be positioned in the same place throughout the session (e.g. seated at a computer, standing in front of a display), you might want a remote system. If your research participants will be moving throughout the session (e.g. walking down a grocery store aisle, walking around a room or building) you might prefer a head-mounted system. There are pros & cons associated with each type. For certain research scenarios, analysis may be more difficult with data from one type of eye tracker compared with the other.

What is the sampling rate of the eye tracker?

The eye moves quickly, and it’s important that you understand how frequently your eye tracker samples eye position. The typical sampling rate of systems ranges from 10Hz – 2000Hz. For usability and marketing research we, at EyeTracking, Inc., don’t use anything less than 60Hz. For scientific research that demands very detailed analysis of rapid saccadic eye movements we might use a 250+Hz system. Some systems offer variable sampling rates.

Is the tracker monocular or binocular?

Many eye trackers only collect data on one eye. This may be fine for some research areas – marketing research, basic usability, anything that only requires monocular point-of-gaze. However, if your research requires you to compare both eyes (e.g. position, vergence or workload) you will most likely need a binocular system. You should be aware that if you only track one eye you may be missing out on data such as whether the person is focused on something or whether they are “zoned out” staring through it. You will likely also find that monocular eye trackers do not cope with Z distances very well. This is particularly true for wearable eye trackers, which often produce inaccurate eye data when the person walks closer to or further away from an object.

What level of accuracy can I expect?

This is obviously a very important question. Accuracy is measured in degrees of visual angle (generally in the range of 0.5 and 1.0). Keep in mind that the accuracy reported by the manufacturer is often based on a best-case-scenario. Data loss can also be a factor that is not typically quoted in specs. Before we purchase an eye tracker, we like to see it in action. This is where a live demo or a trial license comes in handy.

Who cannot be tracked accurately?

There are many factors that can impact ‘trackability.’ These include certain glasses, bifocals, hard contacts, eye pigment, eye shape and eye problems. Participant age and ethnicity can also present obstacles. No eye tracker will track everybody in every scenario, but some handle confounding factors better than others. Consider the population that you will be testing and make sure the eye tracker will support data collection with this population.

What can I expect in terms of analysis?

Before you buy an eye tracker, you need to understand exactly how you will use the data. Are you interested in statistical comparisons? illustrative graphics? real-time eye tracking video of the sessions? all of the above? Different systems offer different depths of analysis. Make a checklist and see which combination of eye tracker and analysis software meets all of your needs.

How much / how long / what kind of support is offered?

These days, eye trackers are getting pretty close to plug-&-play, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need support. Find out if you will receive on-site training with your eye tracker. Find out if online support is offered after the training is complete and for how long. Find out if there is a detailed user manual and demo project materials available for you to explore.

What advanced features are offered?

There are too many to mention, but here are a few relevant advanced eye tracking features that are offered by some but not all eye trackers: Scene camera eye tracking of real environments, multi-display data collection, cognitive workload pupilometry metrics, OEM integration of data with 3rd party applications, dynamic video data renderings, real-time data view, data inaccuracy correction, etc. Again, some of these features are a function of hardware, some software and some a combination (oh and by the way, all of these features are supported by EyeWorks software).

So that’s our advice for buying an eye tracker. If you have questions about our questions or if you are ready to purchase an eye tracker, feel free to contact us. We can provide a quote for most systems and will provide you with unbiased advice.

EyeWorks™: Multi-System Compatibility


There’s a lot to like about EyeWorks™. Its unique brand of flexible efficacy makes it an ideal software solution for eye tracking professionals in a variety of academic, applied and marketing fields. To put it simply, EyeWorks™ IS the collective expertise of EyeTracking, Inc., refined and packaged for researchers everywhere. In the coming months we will highlight a few unique features of EyeWorks™ in the EyeTracking Blog.

Multi-System Compatibility

Would you use the same equipment to evaluate the cognitive workload of a pilot in the cockpit as you would to study the eye movements of a shopper scanning a supermarket shelf? Neither would we. Because of the diversity of research conducted at EyeTracking, Inc., multi-system compatibility is a must. In one study we might need a remote system with scene camera mode and excellent gaze data accuracy; in another we may require a head-mounted system with a high sampling rate and extremely precise pupil-size readings. It would be nice if there were an all-purpose eye tracker capable of managing every conceivable testing scenario, but this is not the case. The reality is that every system has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The one that we use in a given study necessarily depends on who we are testing, where we are testing them and what we hope to discover.

To accommodate the myriad of contexts in which we work, we have designed EyeWorks™ to support (and in many cases enhance) systems from all of the leading hardware manufacturers. Our growing list of supported trackers includes different types (e.g. remote, glasses, head-mounted), sampling rates (e.g. 60Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz), testing scenarios (e.g. monitor, scene camera, projection) and collected data (e.g. gaze, pupil size, workload) among other variables. The advantages are obvious. In this highly technical field with so many moving parts, multi-system compatibility has allowed us to simplify things. We don’t have to try to force our projects into the constraints of a particular eye tracker. We don’t have to worry about different programs treating data differently. Best of all, we don’t have to train our staff to work with multiple software packages because we’ve trained EyeWorks™ to work with multiple hardware systems. The result is maximum flexibility and consistency without sacrificing any functionality.

Now, we realize that for the average eye tracking researcher, making sure that your software is compatible with multiple systems probably isn’t at the top of your wish list. You probably only have one type of eye tracker, or perhaps a few different models from the same manufacturer. So why should you care that EyeWorks™ is compatible with so many different systems? The answer is that we are currently experiencing an eye tracking arms race (or eyes race, I guess). Spurred on by innovators all over the world, technology is rapidly evolving and our industry is expanding in new directions. Take the tablet boom, for example. Many usability researchers have found that the eye tracker that they use to test websites on a computer is not conducive to testing apps on an iPad. Enter Eye Tracking Company X, who has just developed a new system designed specifically for research on tablets and mobile devices. In this situation, wouldn’t it be nice if you could hop over to this new brand without missing a beat? Wouldn’t it also be nice if you could analyze data collected with your old tracker in the same platform as your new tracker?

Therein lies the main benefit of EyeWorks™ multi-system compatibility. Eye tracking hardware is constantly becoming more accurate, more powerful and less expensive. At this point, it’s difficult to predict which manufacturer will release the next great system. The only thing you can do to be prepared is build your eye tracking research using software that is designed to advance along with the technology, no matter where that technology comes from.

EyeWorks™ Hardware Compatibility Matrix: EyeWorks™ continues to adapt to lead the evolution of eye tracking. The Compatibility Matrix lists the manufacturers and models that are currently compatible with EyeWorks™, along with advanced feature compatibility. It’s a pretty good start, but we’re always looking for new systems to add to the list.

Contact our sales team if you are interested in purchasing EyeWorks or any of the eye tracking hardware systems listed here.

The Evolution of a ‘Promising’ Technology

EyeTracking Technology

Over the past hundred years or so, the word “promising” has been employed quite often to describe eye tracking technology – from the very first noninvasive eye data collection by Dodge and Cline in 1901, through Fitts’ work with pilots in the 40s and 50s, right up to modern day uses in a diverse array of applied and research fields. Indeed, it is a promising technology. Absolutely, unquestionably, indubitably, there is great promise in the precise evaluation of visual behavior.

However, as noted by Jacob and Karn (2003), to be described as “promising” for such a lengthy interval is a dubious distinction. On one hand eye tracking must really hold promise or else it would have been discarded long ago. On the other hand, it raises a difficult question: when will this long-heralded promise finally be fulfilled?

I’ve worked in the industry for roughly seven years, and I can count on one hand the number of times that I have stated my occupation to someone who showed even the smallest modicum of recognition. The most common response that I get is a vaguely interested “Hmm.” It seems that even now, after a century of development and important discovery, eye tracking is still relegated to the fringes of public awareness. Think about some of the other inventions around the time that Dodge and Cline were measuring eye movements: the X-ray, the modern microscope, the diesel engine. While these contemporary advances famously changed the world, eye tracking continued to be thought of (if at all) as “promising,” and so it remains to this day. Present company excluded, of course. Anyone reading this blog probably already knows that eye tracking is a great deal more than just some potential futuristic possible down-the-road solution, so I won’t bother with a list of its accolades. What I’d like to discuss instead is the aforementioned perception.

From my vantage, there are two reasons that eye tracking has spent so long in the limbo of “promise.” The first is that the pertinent technologies have been slow to develop. Visual behavior is both subtle and swift. In order to accurately analyze gaze position, pupil dilation and other eye activity, you need an advanced configuration of cameras and software, the likes of which has only recently become available. Past generations of eye trackers were nowhere near the level of precision, automation and flexibility that we now enjoy. Also, today’s eye tracking systems are more than just noninvasive; they are unobtrusive. That may seem like a purely semantic difference, but actually it’s a key component in delivering on the promise. It means that for the first time we can track the eye in a truly natural setting. Consider, for example, the eye tracking-aided 3D televisions unveiled by LG last week. Without our current standard of accurate unobtrusiveness, such a device would have been impossible. And who knows? – maybe this invention will serve as the final nudge that pushes eye tracking across the tipping point of our collective consciousness. Maybe the next time I tell someone what I do for a living they’ll say, “Oh, you mean that thingy in my 3D TV?” to which I will joyously reply, “Sort of, yeah!”

So there was this snail’s pace of development over the course of a century that contributed to the perception (or lack thereof) of eye tracking, and yet that isn’t the whole story. There’s another reason that people are still calling eye tracking a “promising” technology today. It’s because no matter how many new frontiers are reached, there are always promising new ones. One need only look at the history of the field to see what I mean. By the time eye tracking had become an established tool in physiological research, it had developed into a promising one for HCI. Then, as it grew into an established tool for HCI, it became promising as an assistive technology. Over time that newly-established assistive technology was applied to promising areas of defense, security, automotive, medicine, marketing, entertainment, and on and on and on. If you consider such myriad applications, it isn’t any wonder that eye tracking has remained perennially “promising.” In fact, with every evolution and expansion, this descriptor becomes all the more appropriate…which is a good thing. I promise.

Featured image from Pexels.

To In-House or To Out-Source


By far the most common question that we hear from potential clients is this: ‘Can I conduct my eye tracking research internally, or should I enlist the services of an expert?’ It’s an excellent starting point, but the answer that you receive will most likely depend on who you ask. Sellers of eye tracking systems will probably advise you to purchase the equipment yourself, whereas sellers of eye tracking services might steer you toward one of their external solutions. This can make the decision rather difficult. Fortunately, we at EyeTracking, Inc. offer systems AND services. It doesn’t matter to us which direction you choose, so we’re able to give you an objective recommendation based on our substantial experience within the industry. Here’s a basic overview of the pros and cons of each approach.

The benefits of in-house eye tracking are obvious. You own the hardware and software to design your studies, record your data and analyze your results. Recent advances in flexibility and portability allow you to test virtually any content in virtually any location. To put it simply, conducting your eye tracking research internally provides you with the freedom to test whatever, wherever, whenever. For any company that maintains a hands-on research philosophy, this is a big plus. However, there are several drawbacks to conducting your own projects. First, there’s the cost of equipment which can range from $15,000 – $100,000 depending on the scope and type of research. Additionally, you will need staff trained in the nuances of eye tracking and capable of devoting considerable time toward staying current in this rapidly-evolving field. There are also logistical hurdles like recruiting, facilities, software updates and hardware configuration to add to the list. It’s a lot to take on, but this is not so say that it can’t be done. In fact, many companies today have flourishing eye tracking departments fully integrated into their research infrastructure. This can be a very effective approach, although if you don’t have the resources to manage such an undertaking, your nice new eye tracker might soon become a pricey paperweight. 

The benefits of out-sourcing to a company that specializes in eye tracking are equally obvious. In order to get the most out of this valuable research tool, you have to know how to use it. That’s where the experts come in. They know how to frame your test materials within an optimally realistic context (on screen, on shelf or in hand). They know which eye tracker best fits the parameters of each study (remote, glasses or head mounted). They know how to interpret complex data and present results in a way that addresses your specific research objectives (visually, numerically and qualitatively). Within the catalogue of research methods, there is really nothing ‘like’ eye tracking. It is its own science, one that demands a high level of technological, statistical and practical know-how. If you have the opportunity to enlist the services of a company that possesses all of those attributes, it makes sense to do so.  However, there are drawbacks to out-sourcing. A standard eye tracking study generally ranges from $5,000 – $60,000, depending on the options. It’s an investment to say the least, so you must carefully vet the company that you choose. Make sure they’ve been around for a while and have the client list to back up their claims. You should also consider the fact that, while your collaborative project might provide you with some very important take-aways, one thing you will not be taking away is an eye tracker. That means next time you’ll be out-sourcing again instead of building-up your own eye tracking research department.

As you can see there is no simple answer to the In-House vs. Out-Source debate. Each approach has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Give us a call, if you like, and we can help you sort through them.

Featured image from Unsplash.