Eye tracking technology has been in the research phase for quite a while now but the good news is that this new software opens the door to it for anyone with a website. Just about any website owner can use Webgazer to optimize their content and graphics.
WebGazer – where it all began
WebGazer.js was developed by the scientists at Brown University – it’s very easy to implement and can be added to any site in just a couple of minutes with a few lines of code. The software runs on the website visitor’s browser, effectively turning the webcam into an eye tracker which can see where the visitor is looking on the page. The idea behind this is to help developers make websites more user friendly by optimizing content.
Once the software is embedded onto a website, WebGazer will ask users for permission to access their webcams – once permission is given, WebGazer will use face detection software to locate the user’s eyes and face. The program will then convert the image to black and white in order to clearly distinguish the user’s eyes and iris. Once the iris is located, the system uses a statistical model which is calibrated via the user’s cursor movements and clicks. This model works by assuming that a visitor looks at the spot where they just clicked and each click tells the model where the eye looks when it’s viewing a part of the page. Reasonable calibration is achieved in around three clicks and after that WebGazer can accurately guess the viewer’s gaze in real time.
Alexandra Papoutsaki, a graduate student from Brown University states: “We see this as a democratization of eye-tracking. Anyone can add WebGazer to their site and get a much richer set of analytics compared to just tracking clicks or cursor movements.”
Privacy and experiments
There’s no need to worry about privacy when using WebGazer as no video is shared through the software – only the user’s gaze is reported back to the website. Alexandra P. performed a few experiments in order to properly test and evaluate the system – results show that it can infer gaze location in 100-200 screen pixels. While this may not be as accurate as commercial eye tracking software, it’s still a good estimation of where your users are looking.
WebGazer could help developers optimize their pages, create more eye catching content or plan their prices space accordingly. Not only that but in the future we might see WebGazer being used for accessibility reasons or eye controlled gaming. WebGazer’s code is currently available for free use by anyone interested.
It will be fascinating to see how WebGazer will evolve and change the way we view the web.
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