About HPL

Here’s a riddle for you:

What happens when an oculomotor researcher loses her eye tracker?

My punch line has always been, “She finds a new one!” but in reality, most people respond, “What’s an oculomotor researcher?” Just to make sure you get my punch line, I’ll make sure that you know what an oculomotor researcher is.

eye tracking

This is what an oculomotor researcher might see while using an eye tracker.

An oculomotor researcher is someone who uses an eye tracker to investigate a research question.  “Oculo” comes from the latin “oculus” and refers to the eye.  You’ve actually encountered this word pretty frequently as it’s used as part of some pretty common words like binoculars, monocle, or (if you’re a fan of World of Warcraft) the Oculus. The “motor” part refers to movement. Although I already knew what the word oculomotor meant, I wanted to make sure I could back it up for you with interesting links.  When I looked it up on Google, it also provided me with a nifty graph on the useage of oculomotor.

nifty graph

The definition provided by Google when I searched for “oculomotor.” Please note the nifty graph.

You might notice that the word rises in popularity starting in the late 1800s.  That’s likely due to some very interesting early work with eye movements, but I’ll save that for a blog post. You may also notice a high point over the 1970s. That’s likely due to the beginnings of experimental reading research using eye trackers, starting with the foundational work of George McConkie, Keith Rayner, and others. Now, I know both George and Keith; in fact, while I was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I took a class from George on eye movements and information processing. I’ll tell you more about that later, too.

Eye tracking is a tool, just like any other research method, but it’s an awfully fun tool! You can use it virtually anywhere as most eye tracker manufacturers include a wearable version of their product. Eye tracking has become so popular that many electronics companies are including it as an input method.  Consider the Samsung Galaxy S4 that offers users the ability to interface with the phone using “eye control,” allowing videos to be paused simply by looking away from the phone or to scroll through text by tilting the head.  Phones aren’t the only items being controlled with the eyes.