Recent Advances in Eye Tracking – Part 4

When people meet to discuss a topic, some issues remain open for discussion in future meetings. Scientists are no exception to this! From the conferences we attended last year there were a couple of topics that kept people thinking about new solutions. In this part of the series on advances in eye tracking I will focus on a couple of those.

Eye movements are explicit behaviors and can be observed remotely, without the person noticing. A potential problem arises with that fact, because one’s direction of gaze can give away personal information, like preferences. Hence, privacy is becoming an important topic in the field of eye tracking, especially with the technological advancement, that is giving rise to concepts such as “pervasive eye tracking”, or the possibility of tracking people’s eyes anywhere anytime. During the Pervasive Eye Tracking and Mobile Eye-Based Interaction (PETMEI 2018), Mr. Santini presented a methodology that allows unconstrained gaze recording in museums employing mobile eye tracking and AruCo markers, allowing for the study of visual attention in complex real/life environments.

Even through their mobile phones, people now can contribute eye tracking data to researchers for the development of this technology, like with the GazeCapture project from MIT, and with the latest generation smartphones, researchers can already get gaze position on the screen for usability studies of websites using apps like Hawkeye. Developers of such technologies are trying to set clear and transparent policies to protect users’ privacy. The need to discuss privacy issues in eye tracking has become so important, this year at the Eye Tracking Research and Applications conference (ETRA ’19) there will be a dedicated panel to discuss privacy issues with eye tracking, including issues with daily wearable AR/VR devices. The panel will be guided by a group of experts working both in the academic and industrial sectors who will tackle topics like differential privacy and eye tracking (Liu et al., 2019; Steil et al., 2019a) and methods to preserve the privacy of wearable eye tracking users (Bozkir et al., 2019; Steil et al., 2019b).

Another topic that has keeping developers busy is to focus on the users, otherwise known as Human-Centered Design. Prof. Hedge gave an inspiring talk during the Transdisciplinary Engineering conference (TE2018), in which he urged engineers, designers and developers to keep people at the center of their work and not to think in a way of replacing humans by machines. Rather, they should identify the differences and similarities between humans and machines and create collaborative environments in which humans and machines work together, the essence of what is currently called Industry 4.0.

“it is possible to transmit, store and process users’ data without revealing their identity.”

Continuing on this idea, it is very important for optimal collaboration between humans and machines to give information about their state to one another, and eye tracking, among other technologies, can play an important role in that exchange of information, providing collaborators with information about focus, tiredness and cognitive load of the operator and ensuring a safe and productive process.

I will finish this article with the fact that, given technological advancement, it is possible to transmit, store and process users’ data without revealing their identity. The question remains, would you allow researchers to track your eye movements, even when you are using your phone in daily life?

In the final part of this series I will go through the contributions that we brought to the different events we took part in. If you have any question or comment, or if you have an idea you need help developing, feel free to contact me through this form or on social media links below.

Iyad Aldaqre

Data Scientist at SR Labs Srl


Bozkir, E., Geisler, D. & Kasneci E. (2019) Person Independent, Privacy Preserving, and Real Time Assessment of Cognitive Load using Eye Tracking in a Virtual Reality Setup. Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications. ACM, New York, NY, USA.

Hedge, A. (2018) Smart factories need smart people! Industry 4.0 and User-Centered Design. Keynote presented at the Transdisciplinary Engineering conference, Modena, Italy.

Liu, A., Xia, L., Duchowski, A., Bailey, R., Holmqvist, K., & Jain, E. (2019) Differential privacy for eye-tracking data. In Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications (ETRA ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA. DOI:

Santini, T., Brinkmann, H., Reitstätter, L., Leder, H., Rosenberg, R., Rosenstiel, W. & Kasneci, E. (2018) The art of pervasive eye tracking: unconstrained eye tracking in the Austrian Gallery Belvedere. In Proceedings of the 7th Workshop on Pervasive Eye Tracking and Mobile Eye-Based Interaction (PETMEI ’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA. DOI:

Steil, J., Hagestedt, I., Huang, M.X. & Bulling, A. (2019a) Privacy-Aware Eye Tracking Using Differential Privacy.  In Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications (ETRA ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA.

Steil, J., Koelle, M., Heuten, W., Boll, S. & Bulling, A. (2019a) PrivacEye: Privacy-Preserving Head-Mounted Eye Tracking Using Egocentric Scene Image and Eye Movement Features. In Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications (ETRA ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA.