Eye-tracking could help readers by noticing when they struggle with a word

eye tracking reader help human
Marcos Osorio Cecilia/123rf
Eye-tracking technology could be used to help readers struggling with certain words, claims new research from the University of Copenhagen.

With so-called “gaze data” now recordable using everyday PCs, tablets, and smartphones, the research offers a new way of using technology to help people who may be trying to learn a new language, or who are seeking to improve their reading skills in some other way.

“It’s easy to imagine a program in the classroom that, instead of waiting for a teacher to intervene, could learn when to pop up suggested translations or synonyms if a student struggles with a particular word,” Ph.D. researcher Sigrid Klerke told Digital Trends.

Klerke’s work uses computer vision and machine learning technology to recognize people’s eyes as they move across a piece of text. Impressively, it can determine from this movement which words a person is likely reading on a document.

“What the eye-tracking does is to use a recording of your eyes to make a geometrical calculation about which point on the screen your eyes are fixating on at a particular moment,” Klerle said. “For reading, we can pretty accurately work out where your eyes are going to have to be in order to make sense of a certain piece of text. That’s because you can only see 1-2 degrees of the central visual field in sharp detail. As a result, people have to continuously move their eyes along a line of text in order to be able to read all the words.”

Klerke’s work builds on the observation that eyes fixate repeatedly on words or sentences that are difficult. Her research eschews building a general model to fit all readers in favor of one that is customized to each individual reader: thereby absorbing all of the personal quirks we might exhibit when we read.

Based on just a few short seconds of recorded gaze data, the model can then accurately predict whether a word is one that a person is having trouble with. As she said, “I’ve taught a machine to look at someone’s gaze and to be able to recognize stumbling behavior.”

It’s not just reading apps where this could have application, either. Klerke said that her research could also be used by services like Google Translate to suggest whether particular translations may be faulty. If a large number of French speakers struggle with a particular word or phrase when Google translates another language into French, it may suggest the translation needs to be improved.

“Our eyes can tell us a lot,” Klerke concluded. “People don’t always know if a particular word is taking more energy for them to process. There are some easy cases where it’s obvious, but others where it is much harder. In some of these cases, our eyes will reveal this without a person having to be aware of it consciously.”

Emerging Tech

Replaced by robots: 10 jobs that could be hit hard by the A.I. revolution

According to one study, 47 percent of current jobs in the United States could be automated within the next two decades. Here are 10 examples of the kind of employment that refers to.
Mobile

Apple says Group FaceTime will not be part of initial launch of iOS 12

At this year's Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple unveiled its latest operating system, iOS 12. From app updates to group FaceTime, ARKit 2.0, and more, here are all the new features in iOS 12.
Emerging Tech

The world’s first practical quantum computer has cash and a timeline

The dream of building a practical quantum computer could be closer than ever, thanks to a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to seven universities around the United States.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in August 2018, from ‘Blue Valentine’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sets out to try and ‘touch’ the sun

A NASA probe launched on a journey to take measurement of the atmosphere of the Sun, hopefully uncovering crucial details about the origins of the solar winds generated there.
Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Emerging Tech

The Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend! Here’s how to watch

Thanks to a new moon, 2018's Perseid Meteor Shower will be much easier to view, with even the dimmest meteors observable by the naked eye. Here's how to see the show this weekend, and where the views will be the best.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Emerging Tech

Stanford A.I. can realistically score computer animations just by watching them

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a computer system that’s able to synthesize realistic sounds for 3D animation, based entirely on its knowledge about the physical world.
Emerging Tech

No keyboard? No problem. Masterkey will project you a virtual one to type on

Miss having a physical keyboard when you're out and about? Wish you could have a mobile display bigger than your smartphone can offer? Masterkey 4.0 is a wireless projector that promises to help.
Cars

You don’t need to go autonomous to make trucking safer

Long haul truckers are very good at their jobs, but they face long hours and unpredictable conditions. Autonomous tech may be coming, but here’s how lidar technology companies are working to enhance trucking safety today.
Emerging Tech

Be a master of your own ever-changing ‘galaxy’ with this kinetic wall art

Art Machine is a stunning work of kinetic art that looks like a continuously swirling galaxy or turbulent weather formation viewed through a ship's porthole. Check it out in all its glory.
Emerging Tech

Omega Centauri hosts 10 million stars and probably not an ounce of life

Omega Centauri is about 16,000 light years away, making it visible to the naked eye. And it contains some 10 million stars, making it the largest globular cluster in the Milky Way. But it probably doesn't have an ounce of life.