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What Are You Lookin' At?

Eye-movement cameras work for advertisers - and could have applications in security

5:30 PM -- Surveillance cameras, a common security tool, allow us to see the movements of users or potential intruders. But did you know there also is a technology that allows us to tell what they are looking at?

Eye-movement cameras, profiled in today's edition of NewScientist, use infrared technology to determine where a human eye is looking at any given moment, and for how long. The technology already has been used by advertisers and Website designers to see which parts of a computer screen get the most attention.

But those early systems worked at distances of less than half a meter. Now, scientists at the Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, have developed Eyebox 2, an eye-movement camera that works at distances up to 10 meters.

The system uses an array of infrared LEDs and a 1.3 megapixel digital camera to monitor eye movements, according to NewScientist. The camera has higher resolution than most eye-tracking systems, and it can easily pick out the distinctive infrared signature from a pair of human pupils from up to 10 meters. It can also track several people at once and determine their gaze from four meters away to within 15 degrees.

The scientists say the technology has "many applications," including smart billboards that can detect how many passersby have looked at them, and what parts of the billboard they focused on. But I can't help thinking that such technology might be useful in security, helping technicians understand how end users use their computer screens, or whether sensitive resources or areas have come under the scrutiny of roving eyes.

My worst fear is that the cameras might detect my own roving eye movements, stirring the ire of my lovely wife. Not to worry, says NewScientist: The female eye actually is more quickly drawn to embarrassing distraction than the male eye, according to a study by The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, which used the eye-tracking technology.

Check out this new technology here. Just don't be surprised if it knows what you're looking at.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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