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What Are You Looking At?: Part 1, page 1
February 05, 2001

eyetracking headset gif

At the University of Rochester’s Brain and Cognitive Science Lab subjects wear lightweight head-mounted eye trackers while they perform an everyday task such as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Professor Mary Hayhoe found that subjects tended to go about looking at things while performing such tasks in the same way, focusing on the same locations on objects as they gathered information by quickly looking at the various items necessary to perform the task. So while we may have the impression that we see everything at a glance as we look around, in reality it’s our brain that’s putting all the bits of information together to make a complete picture.

In an effort to understand how our brains synthesize visual information, Jeff Pelz, associate professor of imaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has subjects wear a portable eye tracker (see image at top-right) and then do things like wash their hands. He found that subjects tended to glance ahead to the next item they’ll need while they’re doing something else, all the while unaware of such eye movements.

Video 1

Here we see a subject wearing Jeff Pelz’s portable eyetracker. Notice the video screen sewn into the backpack, where what the subject is seeing is being recorded. You might also notice the black dot in the video screen, which represents where the subject is looking. Video 2 will show you the view from inside the eyetracker.

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