Watching what you’re watching: Time Warner to Track Viewers’ Eye Movements in Second Screen Study


It’s no secret that multitasking is becoming more and more prevalent every day, and an upcoming media research project hopes to better understand it by undertaking the unenviable task of tracking the ever-darting eyes of the modern TV audience.

In the study, Ball State University researchers will enlist a group of participants to watch TV and interact with a smartphone or tablet, recording their eye movements all the while. The goal: To get a handle on how users are are fusing social interaction with traditional television viewing. Extrapolating from there, companies like Time Warner (who commissioned the study), could then use that information to optimize the second screen experience, an element of contemporary TV that insiders believe is primed to define its future.

The project is taking place at the Time Warner Medialab in New York City, a year-old facility where dozens of similar studies have been conducted.

As we see it, this news is indicative of two things: The industry is banking on the second screen as a tool for enhanced entertainment, and nobody quite understands how to utilize it yet. Programmers and service providers have been working to provide support to secondary devices for a few years now, with varying degrees of success, but there are myriad strategies floating around as the industry has yet to hone in on a winning formula.

When and if it does, you should see a streamlined experience that helps you fuse social media and entertainment quickly and easily. Until then, it still feels a bit piecemeal – but there is a clear store of potential energy here, just waiting to be unearthed.

The results of the study are expected in June, and  if you can get past the big brother-ish process of tracking eye movements, this results could prove interesting.

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