July 1, 2010, 11:57 AM

Tobii Glasses: A new way to test mobile sites

Consumers don Tobii eyeglasses to have their eye movements tracked as they shop

Lead Photo

Tobii Glasses, from Tobii Technologies Inc., use eye-tracking sensors to show how consumers look at products in a store or at screens on mobile phones.

Consumers in test environments can don Tobii Glasses, special eyeglasses introduced last week by Stockholm, Sweden-based Tobii Technology Inc., to have their eye movements tracked in retail stores or while shopping on smartphones.

The Tobii Glasses run about $45,000 each as part of a package that includes related testing equipment, a data collection device and Tobii Studio software for analyzing that data, according to Barbara Barclay, general manager of Tobii North America.

Beta testers of Tobii Glasses include Procter & Gamble Co., which says it will use Tobii’s technology to research product packaging and shelf placement, and Ipsos Marketing, a firm that specializes in brand research. Barclay says she has received several inquiries from retailers interested in using Tobii Glasses to test mobile content on smartphones, but was not free to name them.

Tobii eyeglasses have shown promise as a research tool, says Gill Atchison, global president, Ipsos Shopper and Retail Research, Ipsos Marketing, without going into detail about how they might be used. "We are thrilled to have had early access to the new Tobii Glasses," he says. "Ipsos looks forward to the time and cost savings this will bring to our research organization. Never before has it been possible to cost-effectively conduct quantitative studies in real world environments and automatically see the visual attention a product or display received."

Tobii also provides other forms of eye-tracking technology, including a system attached to a fixed computer that tracks a person’s eye movements while viewing web pages. In both the fixed computer environments and with Tobii Glasses, the company uses a mixture of infrared light and eye-tracking sensors to track and record eye movements, including the length of time spent on particular product displays, or on particular points on individual products, to help retailers and product manufacturers better understand how visual cues lead consumers from one product-viewing step to another.

Tobii Glasses expands on this capability by using a video camera mounted in the eyeglass frame to record what a consumer looks at as she walks around a store, or as she views a handheld smartphone. At the same time, infrared light and an eye-tracking sensor, which are mounted in one side of the eyeglass frame, are used to illuminate one eye and track and record its movement.

Testers who wear the Tobii Glasses carry a small data-gathering device wired to the glasses. A memory card from the device can be inserted into a computer loaded with Tobii Studio analytics software, which can then be used to analyze the eye-tracking data. Retailers can view a visual record of what a person saw in a store merchandise display or on a smartphone screen. The system can overlay a “heat map” illustration of the person’s eye movements, including colored areas to indicate how long she looked at each part of a product display or smartphone screen.

Barclay adds that some retailers also integrate Tobii Studio analytics with more wide-ranging analytics programs to tie eye-tracking data to other information, such as online conversion rates and sales data. “The holy grail is when some organizations will link eye-tracking data with customer loyalty and purchase data to understand how eye-tracking relates to purchases,” she says.

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