Nav: Home

Novel software can recognize eye contact in everyday situations

August 11, 2017

"Until now, if you were to hang an advertising poster in the pedestrian zone, and wanted to know how many people actually looked at it, you would not have had a chance", explains Andreas Bulling, who leads the independent research group "Perceptual User Interfaces" at the Excellence Cluster at Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics. Previously, one would try to capture this important information by measuring gaze direction. This required special eye tracking equipment which needed minutes-long calibration; what was more, everyone had to wear such a tracker. Real-world studies, such as in a pedestrian zone, or even just with multiple people, were in the best case very complicated and in the worst case, impossible.

Even when the camera was placed at the target object, for example the poster, and machine learning was used i.e. the computer was trained using a sufficient quantity of sample data only glances at the camera itself could be recognized. Too often, the difference between the training data and the data in the target environment was too great. A universal eye contact detector, usable for both small and large target objects, in stationary and mobile situations, for one user or a whole group, or under changing lighting conditions, was hitherto nearly impossible.

Together with his PhD student Xucong Zhang, and his former PostDoc Yusuke Sugano, now a Professor at Osaka University, Bulling has developed a method [1] that is based on a new generation of algorithms for estimating gaze direction. These use a special type of neural network, known as "Deep Learning", that is currently creating a sensation in many areas of industry and business. Bulling and his colleagues have already been working on this approach for two years [2] and have advanced it step by step [3]. In the method they are now presenting, first a so-called clustering of the estimated gaze directions is carried out. With the same strategy, one can, for example, also distinguish apples and pears according to various characteristics, without having to explicitly specify how the two differ. In a second step, the most likely clusters are identified, and the gaze direction estimates they contain are used for the training of a target-object-specific eye contact detector. A decisive advantage of this procedure is that it can be carried out with no involvement from the user, and the method can also improve further, the longer the camera remains next to the target object and records data. "In this way, our method turns normal cameras into eye contact detectors, without the size or position of the target object having to be known or specified in advance," explains Bulling.

The researchers have tested their method in two scenarios: in a workspace, the camera was mounted on the target object, and in an everyday situation, a user wore an on-body camera, so that it took on a first-person perspective. The result: Since the method works out the necessary knowledge for itself, it is robust, even when the number of people involved, the lighting conditions, the camera position, and the types and sizes of target objects vary.

However, Bulling notes that "we can in principle identify eye contact clusters on multiple target objects with only one camera, but the assignment of these clusters to the various objects is not yet possible. Our method currently assumes that the nearest cluster belongs to the target object, and ignores the other clusters. This limitation is what we will tackle next." He is nonetheless convinced that "the method we present is a great step forward. It paves the way not only for new user interfaces that automatically recognize eye contact and react to it, but also for measurements of eye contact in everyday situations, such as outdoor advertising, that were previously impossible."

Further Information:

-end-

[1] Xucong Zhang, Yusuke Sugano and Andreas Bulling. Everyday Eye Contact Detection Using Unsupervised Gaze Target Discovery. Proc. ACM UIST 2017.

https://perceptual.mpi-inf.mpg.de/files/2017/05/zhang17_uist.pdf

[2] Xucong Zhang, Yusuke Sugano, Mario Fritz and Andreas Bulling. Appearance-Based Gaze Estimation in the Wild. Proc. IEEE CVPR 2015, 4511-4520.

https://perceptual.mpi-inf.mpg.de/files/2015/04/zhang_CVPR15.pdf

[3] Xucong Zhang, Yusuke Sugano, Mario Fritz and Andreas Bulling. It's Written All Over Your Face: Full-Face Appearance-Based Gaze Estimation. Proc. IEEE CVPRW 2017.

https://perceptual.mpi-inf.mpg.de/files/2017/05/zhang_cvprw2017.pdf

Demo Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccrS5XuhQpk

Questions can be directed to:

Dr. Andreas Bulling
Perceptual User Interfaces Group
Cluster of Excellence "Multimodal Computing and Interaction"
Saarland Informatics Campus
Tel. 49-681-932-52128
E-Mail: bulling@mpi-inf.mpg.de

Editor:

Gordon Bolduan
Competence Center Computer Science Saarland
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: 49-681-302-70741
E-mail: bolduan@mmci.uni-saarland.de

Notice for Radio Journalists:

You can conduct telephone interviews in studio quality with scientists of Saarland University over the Radio Codec (IP connection with direct dialing or via ARD Sternpunkt 106813020001). Please send interview requests to the press office (0681/302-3610).

Saarland University

Related Eye Contact Articles:

Massachusetts General researchers explore why those with autism avoid eye contact
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often find it difficult to look others in the eyes as they find eye contact uncomfortable or stressful.
Disfiguring eye symptoms diminish in Graves' eye disease drug trial
Graves' eye disease, also known as thyroid eye disease, takes a physical and emotional toll on patients as inflammation and tissue buildup cause the eyes to bulge painfully from their sockets.
Toddlers with autism don't avoid eye contact, but do miss its significance
Marcus Autism Center researchers studied eye movements in 2-year-olds with and without autism.
Drug-dispensing contact lens effectively lowers eye pressure in glaucoma model
In a study published online today in Ophthalmology, a team of researchers have shown that a novel contact lens-based system, which uses a strategically placed drug polymer film to deliver medication gradually to the eye, is at least as effective, and possibly more so, as daily latanoprost eye drops in a preclinical model for glaucoma.
Increased eye cancer risk linked to pigmentation genes that dictate eye color
New research links specific inherited genetic differences to an increased risk for eye (uveal) melanoma, a rare form of melanoma that arises from pigment cells that determine eye color. scientists report the first evidence of a strong association between genes linked to eye color and development of uveal melanoma.
Hospital more than 4 times as likely for under-6s after laundry pod detergent contact
Children under the age of 6 are four times as likely to end up in hospital after contact with laundry pod detergent as children exposed to other types of detergent, finds research published online in the journal Injury Prevention.
In corneal transplantation, men and women don't see eye to eye
A study of patients undergoing corneal transplants indicates that subtle differences between men and women may lead to poorer outcomes for a woman who has received a cornea from a male donor.
Equilibrium modeling increases contact lens comfort
In an article publishing this week in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics, authors David Ross, Kara Maki, and Emily Holz design an equilibrium model to demonstrate the elastic stresses and suction pressure distribution between a soft hydrogel contact lens and an eye.
USC Roski Eye Institute researchers publish largest eye study among Latinos
The University of Southern California Roski Eye Institute researchers and clinicians published results of the largest population-based study of adult Latinos and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the National Eye Institute-funded 'Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES).' The study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, is the first to analyze the risk and prevalence of early and late stage AMD and its impact on quality of life for older Latinos.
USC Roski Eye Institute researchers publish largest Chinese American eye study
USC Roski Eye Institute researchers publish largest eye study among Chinese Americans in JAMA Ophthalmology identifying more effective ways to prevent and treat blinding eye diseases for this racial group.

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Oliver Sipple
One morning, Oliver Sipple went out for a walk. A couple hours later, to his own surprise, he saved the life of the President of the United States. But in the days that followed, Sipple's split-second act of heroism turned into a rationale for making his personal life into political opportunity. What happens next makes us wonder what a moment, or a movement, or a whole society can demand of one person. And how much is too much?
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Future Consequences
From data collection to gene editing to AI, what we once considered science fiction is now becoming reality. This hour, TED speakers explore the future consequences of our present actions. Guests include designer Anab Jain, futurist Juan Enriquez, biologist Paul Knoepfler, and neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris.