Eye-tracking involves tracking the pupil movement through an eye-tracking device. This device could be eye-tracking glasses or a screen-based eye tracker system. The former offers the merit of portability whereas, the latter has cost benefits. In this blog, we will be discussing the differences between the two methods and analyze which ones are suited for different use cases.
Eye Tracking Glasses
Eye-tracking glasses, as the name suggests, are the wearable glasses having infrared sensors that detect eye movement when light is reflected from the pupil. These are easy to wear and are portable. The glasses record the video of whatever stimulus the consumer is actually seeing in real life — which could be a retail shelf, billboards in an airport or a web-page/app is seen on a mobile phone (like this example of IPhone’s Amazon page).
Static Eye Tracker
Static eye tracker or the screen-based eye tracers are the ones placed on a laptop or computer screen where an infrared camera faces the person and tracks the movement of the eye. This device tracks where a person is looking on the screen of the laptop/computer. The stimulus that is provided to the research participant plays in the form of a video or web-interface on the laptop. This is also used for VR-based eye-tracking projects.
Difference between eye tracking glasses and static trackers
The following are major differences between the wearable devices and the screen-based tracker.
Wearable eye-trackers offer the advantage of portability over screen-based systems. They can be used for recording the gaze behavior of an individual in the real-world environment. These glasses can be worn by anyone and usually are helpful when the study has to be carried out in a more realistic environment such as in malls, superstores, etc. These are ideal for situations where there is either head movement or roaming around is involved.
In the case of the screen-based tracker, there is no portability. It is done under a controlled environment and the participant has to be seated while gazing at the screen for a particular period. Here, there are comparatively more restrictions on the participant as there cannot be any kind of head movement. It is not feasible for cases like shopper research where you would ideally want the participants to behave naturally during the research.
2. Types of Studies
Wearable glasses provide the freedom to carry out different kinds/types of studies. Whether it is under a closed room where the participant has to look on the laptop screen or where the participant has to gaze through the products placed in a store. Glasses provide solutions to all the studies.
Screen-based eye tracking can be used with limited studies with the restrictions on the participant. These are feasible where the study has to be carried out in a closed room environment targeting the screen-based ads, or videos. The merit one can get with screen-based tracking is the ease in carrying out remote studies. With the help of webcam-based eye tracking, gaze behavior of participants can be recorded without them being physically present there.
Screen-based eye-trackers offer an ease-of-use that has made them a popular choice for psychology labs. But the restrictions are hard to ignore.
When it comes to the pricing of the eye-tracking software and hardware, screen-based eye tracking takes the lead. They are comparatively more economical than wearable glasses. The reason being that they do not offer the option of portability for the real-world environment and hence are less expensive.
Wearable glasses, on the other hand, have a higher cost than the screen-based recording. But the merits they offer surely compensate for the prices these hardware companies charge.
This is the place where wearable based eye-tracking glasses take a big lead over webcam ones. The wearable eye-trackers typically have higher power hardware and get to see the pupil of the participant’s eye more closely. On the other hand, the webcam-based eye-trackers get to see eye-movements from a much larger distance in order to approximately deduce where a person is looking at.
So the gaze points that you get from a wearable glasses is much much more accurate compared to static webcam-based ones. We even know some clients (“eye-tracking purists”) who use wearable glasses even for analyzing the U/X and designs for websites on a screen or laptop (which is a use case ideally suited for static eye trackers).
The Final Judgement!
Like everything in life, this is a classic case of a trade-off between cost and quality. In light of all the above-stated differences of the two eye-tracking devices, it would be safe to say that if the budget allows, one should go for the wearable eye-tracking glasses. The benefits being portability, easy to carry out any kind of study and simulation with the real-world environment. And more importantly, the data you get is very accurate and useful for generating targeted insights.
Despite its advantages, we observe that one of the key reasons why some clients try to shy away from wearable based eye-tracking is the issue related to coding the gaze data for further quantitative analysis. However, with SmartGaze, we have completely automated that part of the process. What used to take weeks to analyze, can now be done in a matter of hours. If you are curious, please do reach out with your thoughts and we are always happy to discuss 🙂
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