We use our eyes constantly and how we use them is important. The study of human eye movement has been around for about 150 years, initially performed by simple observation. Eye movement is important because what people look at and how long they look at it influences their decision-making and comprehension.
Anything with a visual element can be eye- tracked. Eye-tracking has many applications including those for building design and operation. One example is a company that has several mock supermarkets or shopper labs in order to track eye movements as people wander the aisles of retail stores to determine what items or displays catch their eye. Retailers have limited shelf space and strive to maximize sales and profits, so placing items at a certain shelf height or in specific aisles is important to catch customer's eyes, as well as exposing customers to the highest volume of product.
Eye-tracking can benefit a building, especially its interior design, signage, way finding, and ergonomics for manual controls and kiosks. With eye movement directly related to decision making, we'll start to see more use of research in the design and operation of buildings, touching on the visual structure of the facility, its layout, lighting, colors, and placement of objects or controls. Some of the results could include improved productivity in commercial buildings, wellness in hospitals and enhanced learning in schools.
Eye-tracking is a component of new building concepts and design. For example, with new construction, alternative building facades or spaces can be displayed and viewed as three dimensional Building Information Models. By tracking eye movements and the gaze of design participants (building owners, occupants, architects, engineers, designers and consultants) the information from eye-tracking can provide data on the shape, size, texture, color of the facade or spaces revealing what people liked or disliked. Such data feedback can influence the facade or space design. Eye-Tracking can also complement construction safety, where it is used to identify worker's perceptions of hazards.
Much of today's eye-tracking technology is focused on commercial applications. You'll see eye-tracking used in advertising, software interfaces, retail window design, web pages, and almost anything associated with marketing and selling. Much of the eye-tracking is done for prototypes or draft products or ads, gathering data on how a consumer interacts with visual stimulus to perfect the ad or web page. The basic data evaluates what people look at, and how long it holds their gaze.
There are also beneficial eye-tracking applications that can control computers, monitor automobile drivers or pilots, and even applications allowing paralyzed people to operate wheelchairs via eye movement.