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Eye Gaze versus Eye Tracking

Theresa Bartolotta, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

February 4, 2013



Are eye gaze and eye tracking synonymous? 


No. I am using the terms differently to distinguish between tracking eye movements for research, and using eye gaze technology for communication.  When I talked about eye tracking and the research in eye tracking, what the researchers were studying is eye movement patterns.  The eye tracker studies have a different purpose, and the setup of the equipment is different from the augmentative communication devices activated by eye gaze.  The eye tracker studies gather data on  eye gaze patterns.  We can get information on how long someone looks at something on a screen, how long it takes them to move from left to right, what are their eye gaze patterns.  Eye tracking equipment is really used for data collection and is not used for communication.  Tobii is one of the major manufacturers of eye tracking equipment.  If you go onto their website, if you are trying to find out about the Tobii Communicator, you can see a lot of information about the eye tracker equipment and AAC devices accessed by eye gaze.  Eye tracking is really used for research and data collection, but it is the information that we get from looking at eye tracking from learning about gaze preferences; we can translate that into then clinical applications when we look at eye gaze technology.  Eye gaze technology that is built into communicators is the technology that is used for communication.  Some of the Tobii equipment, which is the equipment that is utilized for communication, is used by many people who need AAC.  For example in adults with acquired neurological disorders like ALS, eye gaze technology is utilized for communication as they are losing their speech skills and the movement control for their bodies.  Because individuals with Rett syndrome have so many problems with volitional motor movements, eye gaze technologies have been explored as a way of communication.  We have issues with the reliability sometimes because if you have ever tried to utilize an eye gaze AAC device, it is supposed to be initially utilized by being calibrated.  There are verbal instructions you have to follow where you are told to follow a ball as it moves across the screen. Because they have to calibrate the machine to recognize the movements of your eyes, many girls with Rett syndrome cannot be calibrated.  This does not mean they cannot utilize the device.  It just that it is harder to get some consistency initially.  

theresa bartolotta

Theresa Bartolotta, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Theresa E. Bartolotta earned her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Queens College of the City University of New York and her Ph.D. from Seton Hall University. She is Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology and Director of Assessment in the Office of the Provost at Seton Hall. Her primary research interests are in communication impairment in autism spectrum disorders, including Rett syndrome. She has published articles and presented widely on Rett syndrome and communication intervention in this population.

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