Eye Tracking System for Education and Research

Project Title: Eye Tracking System for Education and Research

Long Title (if desired): Eye Tracking System for Education and Research in Language and Cognition

Project Lead's Name: Aaron Shield, PhD

Project Lead's Email: shielda@MiamiOH.edu

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-2524

Project Lead's Division: CAS

Primary Department: Speech Pathology and Audiology

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Kelly Knollman-Porter, PhD: knollmkk@MiamiOH.edu
  • Arnold Olszewski, PhD: olszewak@MiamiOH.edu
  • Trace Poll, PhD: pollgh@MiamiOH.edu

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal: Speech Pathology and Audiology

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 79

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 42


Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: Faculty in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology place a high value on the planning and implementation of scientific and translational research which will push the field forward for the betterment of children and adults with language and cognitive challenges. Eye tracking technology would allow us to better understand how and why eye movements are made and how we gather information with our eyes. Specifically, researchers and educators within our department can use eye tracking to investigate executive function, spatial relations, problem solving, language acquisition, reading comprehension and cause and effect relationships, as well as social interactions and gaze following. We can also use this technology to teach students within our classrooms and labs about how knowledge of eye movements and patterns can influence future diagnostic and treatment decisions in clinical practice.

Currently Tobii Pro provides the most flexible and technologically advanced eye tracking software and equipment that will meet the educational and within department and field research needs of our faculty. Specially, The Tobii Pro Spectrum, their most advanced eye tracking platform designed for extensive studies into human behavior and the mechanics of the fastest eye movements, would be an ideal mechanism to perform research studies within the structure of our department. In addition since Dr. Shields, Dr. Knollman-Porter, Dr. Olszewski, and Dr. Poll implement research in functional settings outside of the department (e.g., schools, homes), use of the Tobii Pro X3-120, which utilizes eye tracking technology in an ultra-slim transportable system, would allow for research examining behaviors outside of the lab. Please see attached details regarding both the Tobii Pro Spectrum and Trobi Pro X3-120.

Use of eye tracking technology will enhance the current research agendas and needs of at least four faculty within the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. Dr. Shields, Dr. Knollman-Porter, Dr. Olszewski and Dr. Poll are committed to using this technology in their labs and classrooms. Additional information is provided below to specify how eye tracking technology will be utilized for research purposes within each of their labs:

Dr. Aaron Shields: The eye tracker will be valuable for conducting research on the eye gaze behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. In particular, my lab investigates questions related to how children with ASD look at other people’s faces. Although many studies have compared children and adults with ASD to neurotypicals on face gaze behavior (finding, for example, that individuals with ASD tend to look more at the mouth region and less at the eyes region), such research has never been conducted with deaf children or children who know a signed language. My lab, the Sign Language and Autism Lab at Miami, is engaged in investigating how exposure to a signed language may benefit children with ASD. By comparing signing children with ASD to non-signing children with ASD on their face gaze behavior, we hope to be able to answer important questions about how exposure to sign could benefit the social and cognitive skills of children with ASD.

Dr. Kelly Knollman-Porter: One of the research objectives in the Neurogenic Language and Cognitive Lab which I direct, is to provide evidence and establish guidelines for implementing intervention programs that either support use of currently available assistive technology tools or promote the development of new tools to help adults with aphasia secondary to stroke comprehend written information independently. Use of eye tracker technology will enhance this line of research by allowing us to examine how adults with acquired brain injury attend to text and visuographic images in structured and functional reading materials. This information would help us develop supportive strategies and techniques which could improve reading comprehension accuracy and efficiency. As Director of the MU Concussion Management Program, my second research objective is to help develop more efficient and objective measure to make return-to-play decisions and implement appropriate academic accommodation for athletes following concussion. Use of eye tracking will allow us to better understand eye movement patterns of athletes at various stages of recovery following concussion. Currently, we can only subjectively document eye movement patterns of individuals following acquired brain injury. A more objective measure is warranted in order to further our research efforts.

Dr. Trace Poll: Eye tracking is a valuable method for studying language comprehension. My lab investigates characteristics of adolescents with language disorders, including sentence comprehension. Eye tracking enables researchers to learn not just what adolescents comprehend after hearing a sentence, but how they comprehend it as the sentence is presented, moment by moment. Our current tools do not provide this level of information. Learning about fine-grained sentence comprehension can contribute to better testing and intervention methods for this under-researched group. Beyond the research potential, having the eye tracker would provide opportunities for hands-on learning activities for undergraduate students in our language development and disorders classes. The research methods used in our field are important learning objectives for our programs.

Dr. Arnold Olszewski: The mission of the CALL Lab is to identify barriers to young children’s language acquisition. It is hypothesized that for children from vulnerable populations (e.g., poverty, chronic health conditions, etc.) these children may demonstrate a decreased capacity of cognitive load. Self-response measures of cognitive load have only been validated on older children and adults. Therefore, for young children, physiological measures of cognitive load are more appropriate. A validated physiological measure of cognitive load is pupillary response measured via remote eye tracking. Via eye tracking measures, researchers in the CALL Lab can determine how reliably pupillary response predicts performance on language and emergent literacy tasks, thus allowing development of more accurate screening and assessment measures to identify children at risk for language and literacy disorders. Furthermore, interventions can be tailored to address underlying cognitive skills (e.g., working memory, focused attention) that may increase cognitive load thus allowing for better acquisition of skills. However, without physiological measures, these skills are impossible to assess in young children.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: Combined, Dr. Shields, Dr. Knollman-Porter, Dr. Poll and Dr. Olszeski have 19 undergraduate students and 14 graduate students engaged in social, linguistic and cognitive research in which eye tracking technology would be utilized. They also teach undergraduate and graduate level classes in pediatric and adult communication disorders from pediatrics where this technology would be demonstrated. In order to increase researcher and student access to this technology, the Tobii Pro Spectrum eye tracker will be placed in a secure yet accessible location within our mutually shared Speech and Hearing Clinic. Additionally, since the Tobii Pro X3-120 is transportable, its use can be demonstrated within the classroom environment.

Eye tracking is a versatile technology that many of our students will encounter in both research and clinical applications. For example augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices are designed to have eye-gaze input, building on the same technology that we propose for research purposes. These students would also benefit from training in the eye-tracking paradigm. It would give them exposure to cutting-edge technology and allow us to move beyond explicit measures (in which children/adults must give responses) to implicit measures (where the measure is eye movement). This technology will give students exposure to a fast-growing area of research with many applications. It also has the potential to allow students to work with minimally-verbal children and adults with developmental and acquired cognitive and language deficits, who have no expressive language. In summary, providing students an opportunity to use innovative eye tracking equipment in both research and teaching environments will challenge them to always search for more advanced and creative ways to better serve the needs to their future clients.

How will you assess the success of the project: Short Term Measures of Success:

Objective 1 (Student Learning): Undergraduate students enrolled in language classes will demonstrate an understanding of how eye-gaze data can support conclusions about language and social communication.

Graduate students enrolled in neurogenic language and cognitive disorders classes will demonstrate an understanding of how eye-gaze data can provide information which will direct clinical decisions regarding compensatory strategy and support use.

These objectives will be measured during eye tracking labs, exam questions and class projects.

Objective 2 (Utilization): Each faculty member listed on this proposal will develop at least 1 research study involving undergraduate and/or graduate students utilizing the eye gaze equipment over the course of the year.

We will keep a check-in/check-out log with the equipment which will allow us to measure the number of instances when the equipment was utilized by faculty and/or students for learning and research purposes.

Long-term Measures of Success

Objective 1 (Dissemination):

Faculty and student success will be measured via the number of presentations and publications completed on topics relating to pediatric and adult communication disorders utilizing the eye tracking equipment.

Total Amount Requested: $63,124.00


Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project impacts any of Miami's BCSAE, 2020, or divisional plans: The goal of the Miami 2020 Plan is to “promote a vibrant learning and discovery environment that produces extraordinary student and scholarly outcomes.” Our proposed student tech fee application is directly in line with the 2020 plan through our desire to procure advanced eye tracking technology which will not only enhance the already established research agendas of four productive faculty members but will also allow undergraduate and graduate students within their labs and classrooms the opportunity to use this advanced equipment both in research and clinical education. The research opportunities provided will lead to future manuscript publications and local, state, national and international presentations in which the students will be involved. Additionally, having eye tracking technology will offer the faculty members more opportunities to work with colleagues from other universities on larger scale collaborative research studies which could have a greater large scale impact than studies implemented independently. Specially, Dr. Knollman-Porter already has this opportunity with colleagues from the University of Arizona and Duquesne University. Overall, training to this advanced technology will make students more marketable when applying for graduate school and post-graduate employment because of this advanced experience with eye tracking technology.