The Catholic University of America

Oct. 9, 2008

CUA Unveils Eye-Tracking Technology

Thanks to the latest technology in eye tracking, CUA psychology professors and students can better study how autistic children train their eye gaze; CUA's chemistry department will be able to calculate the effectiveness of computer-animated learning tools; and education faculty will begin studying the eye-movement strategies of struggling readers.

And these research projects are just the beginning, says CUA chemistry professor Diane Bunce. She helped organize the university's purchase of a Tobii X120 Eye Tracker, which was unveiled Oct. 9 in a gathering of faculty and students at Maloney Hall.

The eye tracker is a monitor that tracks eye movement through infrared light and records a subject's gaze across the monitor screen.

And while the chemistry, psychology and education departments, along with the School of Library and Information Science, already have specific research in mind for the Eye Tracker, Bunce hopes that the equipment will bring a flurry of new research interests by professors, undergraduates and graduate students across all disciplines at CUA.

To that end, Bunce has created an online calendar, where interested researchers can sign up to train on and use the machine by contacting her at bunce@cua.edu.

"Our job was to get the eye tracker here," Bunce said at the ceremony. "Now our job is to share it. This will be a phenomenal multi-departmental opportunity to conduct research of all kinds."

Eye tracking describes any technique used to measure point of gaze, or where a subject is looking. Eye tracking has implications not only for research into student learning and behavioral habits, but can also be an important tool in studying how people navigate applications such as the Internet.

A screen below the computer monitor releases a low-level infrared light that bounces off the subject's retina and back onto the screen. Every eye movement the subject makes is recorded on the monitor. Researchers can then study how long the subject looked at a particular area on the screen, as well as the sequence of their gaze: which area they looked at first, then second, etc.

The School of Library and Information Science is also using eye tracking technology to understand what people look at on a Web page, especially when it comes to search engine pages.

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