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IBM Research

IBM Research - Almaden

Eye-Gaze Tracking


As part of the larger Sensemaking effort in the USER Group, we have been studying how eye tracking technology and analytics can help understand how people read, learn and use web-based content. As is well known, detailed eye movement behavior can reveal much about a reader’s behavior and level of understanding. We have an active program in creating an eye tracking system (WebGazeAnalyzer WGA) that is portable, robust and flexible.

WGA is a remote-camera system, requiring no invasive head-mounted apparatus, giving test subjects a normal web use experience when performing web-based tasks. While many such systems have been used in the past to collect eye gaze data, WebGazeAnalyzer brings together several techniques for efficiently collecting, analyzing and re-analyzing eye gaze data. In our forthcoming CHI 2005 paper, we briefly describe techniques for overcoming the inherent inaccuracies of such apparatus, illustrating how we do capture and analysis of eye gaze data for commercial web design problems (WebGazeAnalyzer: A System for Capturing and Analyzing Web Reading Behavior Using Eye Gaze).

Recent work:

During 2004 we have been working closely with IBM’s Center for Advanced Learning (CAL) in studies of the effects of particular web page layout and design and how readers learn from the web. We have discovered a number of striking effects, and are in the process of writing up those results now (December, 2004). Please watch this space for additional papers as we produce them.

One such effect we’ve discovered is the effect of line-length on reading patterns. Surprisingly, conventional wisdom about reading wide vs. narrow columns (that narrow is easier to read) is true only in a limited sense. While we found that narrow columns ARE marginally faster to read and DO create better reading retention scores, it is at the cost of "paragraph abandonment", an effect we found that narrow columns encourages. As people read long, narrow columns of text on the web, they tend to increasingly "abandon" the paragraph they’re reading in favor of a skimming reading style. So while retention is better in the narrow columns case, it might not matter if the essential text wasn’t read to begin with!

For more details, please read: Narrow vs. Wide Paragraphs: An Eye Tracking Analysis

Eye-Gaze Tracking Image

Figure: The browser playback and timeline windows in WebGazeAnalyzer. The playback window shows a sample gaze line (aqua) with its constituent fixations. This gaze line is matched to the DOM line beginning with "list of the behaviors", and the mapping of the gaze line under the gaze tracker drift modal is shown in magenta. In the timeline, horizontal velocity is shown in green, vertical in blue.

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