Eyetracking and the tablet

As someone who is interested in studying different tablet and e-reader devices (I’m currently in the process of planning the groundwork for my thesis), I am super intrigued by the fact that Poynter is extending its eyetracking studies to include tablets. The study they did in 2007 evaluated the differences in reader usage between print and online news, and now they are working to track not only eye movement, but also other ways that people interact with tablets, like swiping, zooming in and scrolling. I am totally fascinated.

This could be a big deal for not only the news industry, but also the trade book industry, which is my ultimate goal for employment. If Poynter’s study can help publishers understand how readers interact with the devices and the material, we can play on those strengths and weaknesses to provide better products.

The previous studies have only watched individual readers for a short amount of time, so it would be interesting to see the actual differences in eyestrain between tablet types if Poynter were to look at back lit screens and those with e-ink.

But hey, maybe Google’s new glasses will save us all the trouble and track the information for us.

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4 thoughts on “Eyetracking and the tablet

  1. That’s so interesting that you’re doing this for your thesis, and I am equally fascinated with how the study will incorporate tablets. I really am concerned with the user experience with different publications, but I’m sure they’ll answer that and more with the new study. I agree that it could help publishers determine how to market certain content for the tablet vs. print or online. Yeah, I think they stated in the study that participants only read for 15 minutes. I don’t know if that’s enough time to evaluate the experience of using a tablet because of the graphics and having so much more to do than just turning a page or clicking on an article. I’m also excited about the Google eyeglasses, but I think I’ll be a late bloomer, as I’ve been with all technology. I still haven’t converted to an e-reader yet. Great post!

    • Thanks for the comment, Michelle! You might be surprised to find that I don’t have an e-reader either. While I love the technology of it and am always interested in techie stuff, I also love picking up a good book, reading it and adding it to my collection of paperbacks. I like trading with friends and carrying books to the beach without worrying about sand getting in the charging port. I guess I’m a little old-fashioned. But you’re right about the length of time needed to study e-readers and tablets. With so much to do and look at, it’s easy to get distracted, so 15 minutes might not be enough.

  2. Yeah, it’s interesting that the Nook will likely decrease the amount of traffic in the Barnes and Noble stores, the very company that designs and makes the Nook. I don’t think bookstores will go away anytime soon, but the tablet seems to be the preferred choice of the future. Of course, as you mention, the Google glasses on further complicate the murky outlook. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Nook. I definitely like the iPad better. But I haven’t converted yet either. I usually surf the web on my phone out of convenience and nothing more. The small type hurts your eyes and so many sites have limiting mobile sites. There is something pleasing about the tangible quality of a book. I like being able to feel the pages, hold a pen in my hand and highlight different passages, while dog-earing pages that seem particularly important. However, as I said, some alternative will be the future of reading, whether it’s high-tech glasses or a tablet. I think I’ll brace a little while longer and wait to see which technology wins the battle five years from now.

    • Erich, I like your wait-and-see policy. It’s hard to tell just what technology will take over next, but I don’t foresee the Google glasses being quite as universal as an e-reader or tablet. If everyone had the glasses, would we all walk around while reading the internet instead of conversing with one another? Will the cities become quieter? It’s a strange phenomenon to imagine. At least with a Kindle, Nook or iPad, users can set it down and walk away.

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