Department of Geoinformatics Among Global Leaders in Eye Tracking

Illustrative photo: Stanislav Popelka
sunday 16. october 2016, 14:25 – Text: Martina Šaradínová

The Department of Geoinformatics at the UP Faculty of Science is the most active institute in the world in the area of eye tracking in cartography, according to the number of its publications. Eye tracking is a method to evaluate a product – in this instance, a map – on the basis of eye movement analyses. The information about the leading position of Olomouc geoinformatics experts was published in the journal ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information.

The article named “Visualizing the Intellectual Structure of Eye Movement Research in Cartography“ was written by authors from China and the United States. They used bibliometric analysis methods to visualize the intellectual structure of eye movement research in cartography. They searched the Web of Science database for articles with key words such as eye tracking, cartography, map, map reading, GIS, and others. They obtained 209 bibliographic records with 7355 citations. The data obtained from the database were subsequently analysed.

The highest number of publications

“The co-occurrence analysis was interesting as it showed the most active institute publishing in this area. Number one was Palacký University, namely, the Department of Geoinformatics, with sixteen published records,” said Stanislav Popelka, Head of the Eye-Tracking Laboratory at the department. He is the most active author according to the article, with ten published articles on eye tracking in cartography.

“The article made me happy. Apart from placing at the first position, I was also glad that we are one of the few who publish in cooperation with other institutes. What I like about eye tracking is that you can directly see how the user works with a map, which spots gained his attention, if he keeps coming back to the legend, or even which spots are problematic. On the basis of these findings, we are able to optimise maps and make them more user-friendly and more efficient in terms of orientation,” added Popelka.

The device for measuring eye movement is called eye tracker. It is basically a box located underneath a computer screen, with two infrared lights directed at the user and a high-speed camera recording the user’s eyes. The computer automatically recognises the pupils and the corneal reflection – the reflection of the infrared light from the cornea. The position of the eyes is then measured with an accuracy of 0.4°. And this measurement is made 250 times per second.

“The method is very often used in marketing, advertising, and web design. It can also be used for computer control in the case of people with disabilities who cannot use their hands,” added Popelka. Its application in cartography is a trend in the last five or ten years. International cartographic conferences today have entire sections dedicated to cognitive cartography, especially with the use of eye tracking.

An objective evaluation of cartographic products by the means of monitoring eye movement has been provided at the Department of Geoinformatics since June 2011. The research involves map content optimisation, 3D terrain visualisations, reduction of uncertainty in cartography, improved map label placement, and other themes with one goal – to make maps better.