Eye movement tracking might sound like a dystopian nightmare, but as the technology is continuing to improve and beginning to go mainstream, the tracking data is becoming more useful. Tobii, maker of frighteningly accurate eye-tracking technology solutions, announced Tobii Pro VR Analytics, a tool that enables developers and researchers to visualize what virtual reality headset users are actually looking at in simulated worlds.
While the value of eye-tracking analytics might seem abstract, concrete examples show its game-changing potential across industries. On the retail front, Tobii suggests that stores and brands could test alternative shop layouts and package designs to see which maximize purchasing. Educators can train pilots, surgeons, and factory workers to focus correctly on their tasks while avoiding distractions. And construction companies can lay out building interiors with potential signage and emergency exits, thereby optimizing safety prior to construction.

Tobii foreshadowed the value of eye-tracking analytics last November when it worked with a metal foundry on a VR-assisted worker training program to reduce accidents and reveal aluminum casting process inefficiencies. After employees gave their consent to have eye movements tracked, the foundry examined eye data to better “understand behaviors that are intuitive to a skilled performer but difficult to articulate to the novice,” including the extreme eye-level focus and concentration required to safely make parts out of molten metal.
“Using eye tracking within a VR environment helps us better understand how people navigate around a space,” explained David Watts of the human factors consultancy CCD Design & Ergonomics. “We want to bring evidence into the design process, and the visualizations tell us what people actually look at and how their attention is drawn to different design interventions we make. This methodology is so much more powerful than relying on our own intuition about what does and doesn’t work. It also provides a great visual record to demonstrate behaviors to others in the design team.”

Tobii Pro VR Analytics is a Unity plugin, designed to work with existing Unity 3D environments and PC VR headsets that have Tobii eye-tracking technology. Once enabled, the tool instantly displays visualizations of eye movements, along with navigation and interaction data. Heat, opacity, and scene/path overview maps let researchers see which areas received the most attention, as well as analyzing how multiple people moved through a scene to determine bottlenecks and foot tracking patterns. Tobii Pro VR Analytics is available through Tobii now.