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What is a Heat Map? - Examples & Eye Tracking

Instructor: David Gloag
Eye tracking is an area that is constantly looking to improve its abilities. In this lesson, we'll look at heat maps, what they are, how they relate to eye tracking, and some examples.

The Importance of Sight

Most of us depend on our vision. We read news articles, watch sporting events, and scan the road when we drive our vehicles. There is no escaping it. Vision is a huge part of our lives.

So it makes sense that researchers of all types are interested in what we look at. It's an indication of attention, interest, and possibly a sale. Several technologies focus on our vision, and its significance. A couple of the more notable ones are heat maps and eye tracking.

Heat Maps

A heat map is a two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) visual representation of information. It uses XY coordinates, sometimes a Z coordinate, and color, to display grouped, or clustered data.

Heat maps are used to represent a wide variety of information that range from financial markets to weather patterns. For example, geographic topology maps use color to indicate areas of a similar height. Weather precipitation maps use color to represent areas of similar moisture levels. And temperature maps use color to represent areas of similar temperature. In each case, groupings or clusters of color indicate areas of similarity.

Eye Tracking

Eye tracking is about eye activity. Specifically, it records various elements of eye position and movement for the purposes of deriving some sort of meaning. We tend to favor our sense of sight. If you think about it, retailers could learn various things about their customers by simply analyzing what they are looking at.

Software engineers could design user interfaces that respond to eye direction and focus. And building security could use eye color or retinal patterns to determine access rights. Regardless of the application, the effectiveness of the technology comes down to recognizing and recording eye behaviors.

How Are Heat Maps Used in Eye Tracking?

Imagine a heat map where XY coordinates indicate relative position within a space, and are determined from eye tracking information. Color indicates the amount of time the eyes stay focused on a particular area in the space, also determined from eye tracking.

Algorithms could use the clustering information presented by the map to determine what a person is focused on. They could even look at the variation over time by considering changes in the map. As you might imagine, this has a number of applications.

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