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Thesis

Mobile Eye Tracking for Everyone

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Steil,  Julian
Computer Vision and Machine Learning, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Steil, J. (2019). Mobile Eye Tracking for Everyone. PhD Thesis, Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken. doi:10.22028/D291-30004.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-652F-6
Abstract
Eye tracking and gaze-based human-computer interfaces have become a practical modality in desktop settings, since remote eye tracking is efficient and affordable. However, remote eye tracking remains constrained to indoor, laboratory-like conditions, in which lighting and user position need to be controlled. Mobile eye tracking has the potential to overcome these limitations and to allow people to move around freely and to use eye tracking on a daily basis during their everyday routine. However, mobile eye tracking currently faces two fundamental challenges that prevent it from being practically usable and that, consequently, have to be addressed before mobile eye tracking can truly be used by everyone: Mobile eye tracking needs to be advanced and made fully functional in unconstrained environments, and it needs to be made socially acceptable. Numerous sensing and analysis methods were initially developed for remote eye tracking and have been successfully applied for decades. Unfortunately, these methods are limited in terms of functionality and correctness, or even unsuitable for application in mobile eye tracking. Therefore, the majority of fundamental definitions, eye tracking methods, and gaze estimation approaches cannot be borrowed from remote eye tracking without adaptation. For example, the definitions of specific eye movements, like classical fixations, need to be extended to mobile settings where natural user and head motion are omnipresent. Corresponding analytical methods need to be adjusted or completely reimplemented based on novel approaches encoding the human gaze behaviour. Apart from these technical challenges, an entirely new, and yet under-explored, topic required for the breakthrough of mobile eye tracking as everyday technology is the overcoming of social obstacles. A first crucial key issue to defuse social objections is the building of acceptance towards mobile eye tracking. Hence, it is essential to replace the bulky appearance of current head-mounted eye trackers with an unobtrusive, appealing, and trendy design. The second high-priority theme of increasing importance for everyone is privacy and its protection, given that research and industry have not focused on or taken care of this problem at all. To establish true confidence, future devices have to find a fine balance between protecting users’ and bystanders’ privacy and attracting and convincing users of their necessity, utility, and potential with useful and beneficial features. The solution of technical challenges and social obstacles is the prerequisite for the development of a variety of novel and exciting applications in order to establish mobile eye tracking as a new paradigm, which ease our everyday life. This thesis addresses core technical challenges of mobile eye tracking that currently prevent it from being widely adopted. Specifically, this thesis proves that 3D data used for the calibration of mobile eye trackers improves gaze estimation and significantly reduces the parallax error. Further, it presents the first effective fixation detection method for head-mounted devices that is robust against the prevalence of user and gaze target motion. In order to achieve social acceptability, this thesis proposes an innovative and unobtrusive design for future mobile eye tracking devices and builds the first prototype with fully frame-embedded eye cameras combined with a calibration-free deep-trained appearance-based gaze estimation approach. To protect users’ and bystanders’ privacy in the presence of head-mounted eye trackers, this thesis presents another first-of-its-kind prototype. It is able to identify privacy-sensitive situations to automatically enable and disable the eye tracker’s first-person camera by means of a mechanical shutter, leveraging the combination of deep scene and eye movement features. Nevertheless, solving technical challenges and social obstacles alone is not sufficient to make mobile eye tracking attractive for the masses. The key to success is the development of convincingly useful, innovative, and essential applications. To extend the protection of users’ privacy on the software side as well, this thesis presents the first privacy-aware VR gaze interface using differential privacy. This method adds noise to recorded eye tracking data so that privacy-sensitive information like a user’s gender or identity is protected without impeding the utility of the data itself. In addition, the first large-scale online survey is conducted to understand users’ concerns with eye tracking. To develop and evaluate novel applications, this thesis presents the first publicly available long-term eye tracking datasets. They are used to show the unsupervised detection of users’ activities from eye movements alone using novel and efficient video-based encoding approaches as well as to propose the first proof-of-concept method to forecast users’ attentive behaviour during everyday mobile interactions from phone-integrated and body-worn sensors. This opens up possibilities for the development of a variety of novel and exciting applications. With more advanced features, accompanied by technological progress and sensor miniaturisation, eye tracking is increasingly integrated into conventional glasses as well as virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) head-mounted displays, becoming an integral component of mobile interfaces. This thesis paves the way for the development of socially acceptable, privacy-aware, but highly functional mobile eye tracking devices and novel applications, so that mobile eye tracking can develop its full potential to become an everyday technology for everyone.